Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi will testify on Tuesday before the UN Human Rights Council's commission of inquiry into Israel's raid of the Mavi Marmara in May. Zoabi will appear before the UN body as part of a delegation of senior Arab figures who participated in the flotilla.
Zoabi announced on Monday that she is planning to demand that the UNHRC investigate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, all of whom she charges with bearing personal responsibility for the "criminal and pirate takeover" which claimed the lives of nine flotilla participants.
In addition, Zoabi is slated to ask the UN body to extend the jurisdiction of its commission of inquiry so that it can investigate what she deems "Israel's violations of international law in imposing a blockade on Gaza, war crimes, and crimes against humanity being committed in the Gaza Strip for four years."
Zoabi even demanded that Defense Minister Barak allow the UN probe to investigate IDF soldiers who took part in the raid. She also demanded that Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch allow Sheikh Raed Salah, who also participated in the flotilla, to testify from his cell in an Israeli jail.
'Not looking to condemn Israel'
It is important to note that unlike the commission of inquiry appointed by the UN secretary-general which enjoys a certain degree of Israeli cooperation, the UNHRC probe is shrouded in controversy. At the beginning of the month, UNHRC President Sihasak Phuangketkeow rejected claims that the council's probe is superfluous in light of Israel's agreement to cooperate with the secretary-general's inquiry.
He said there was a clear distinction between the aims and mandate given to the two committees, and hoped Israel would take an effective and active part in the investigations because the committee's aim was not to condemn Israel.
According to Phuangketkeow, committee members would try to get to the Middle East to interview those involved in the flotilla events despite Israel's declaration that it would not cooperate.
The more important committee, set up by the UN secretary-general and headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer has won the support of Israel and Turkey, and will receive the report from the Turkel Commission, which is investigating the events independently.
The committee will include outgoing Columbian President Alvaro Uribe as well as an Israeli and a Turkish representative. Both committees are expected to publish their findings next month.
The declared aims of the Geneva committee is to ascertain whether Israel violated international law or human rights, while the New York committee will concentrate on fact-finding and the implications of the flotilla affair as well as recommendations to prevent a similar occurrence.
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