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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

More on international law /blockades

Richard (I believe it is Richard Landes from the Augean Stables blog) points out more parts of the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea that seem relevant, and that show that Israel has complied with international law to the letter.

Paragraph 47 lists ships that are exempt from attack. Presuambly, the flotilla organizers consider themselves to fit under sub-paragraph (c)(ii):

(c) vessels granted safe conduct by agreement between the belligerent parties including:

(ii) vessels engaged in humanitarian missions, including vessels carrying supplies indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, and vessels engaged in relief actions and rescue operations;

The flotilla does not meet the minimum requirement because it was not granted permission by the other party of the blockade, Israel.

Even if it had been, the next paragraph mentions a major exception:

48. Vessels listed in paragraph 47 are exempt from attack only if they: (a) are innocently employed in their normal role;
(b) submit to identification and inspection when required; and
(c) do not intentionally hamper the movement of combatants and obey orders to stop or move out of the way when required.

In addition, such actions in international waters are legal:
96. "The force maintaining the blockade may be stationed at a distance determined by military requirements."

More relevant sections:
98. "Merchant vessels believed on reasonable grounds to be breaching a blockade may be captured. Merchant vessels which, after prior warning, clearly resist capture may be attacked."

103. "If the civilian population of the blockaded territory is inadequately provided with food and other objects essential for its survival, the blockading party must provide for free passage of such foodstuffs and other essential supplies, subject to: (a) the right to prescribe the technical arrangements, including search, under which such passage is permitted; and (b) the condition that the distribution of such supplies shall be made under the local supervision of a Protecting Power or a humanitarian organization which offers guarantees of impartiality, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross."
Israel does all of these things. Last week, Israel delivered more cement to Gaza than the flotilla wanted to provide - but Israel gave the cement to UNRWA under strict conditions and ensuring that they are used only for the purposes they are earmarked for.

Also, see Julian Ku, about the absurd claims of "piracy":

Let’s go to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, Article 101:

Piracy consists of any of the following acts:

(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:

(i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;

(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;

(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;

(emphasis added). I don’t think even the Gaza flotilla defenders claim that the IDF raid was “committed for private ends.” (Just the opposite, actually). And, in general, piracy cannot be committed by a national ship, only by private ships or by national ships that have been taken over by their crews.

So can we drop the stupid piracy meme? There are some very hard legal issues here: Is Israel’s naval blockade legal? (Probably). If so, was the boarding in international waters legal? (Maybe). And even if so, did the IDF use disproportionate force? (I have no idea). This last question is really the key issue here, and it is also the one that is never going to be resolved with any certainty given that it is dependent on neutral factual determinations that will never happen here.