Activists not to drop charges against Israeli soldiers for Mavi-Marmara attack

Mavi Marmara - Gaza Flotilla, 2010

Mavi Marmara – Gaza Flotilla, 2010

By Gozde Nur Donat, Today’s Zaman – 12 May 2013

Families of the victims of Israel’s Mavi Marmara raid along with the survivors of the incident are determined to continue their legal struggle in trying members of the Israeli military responsible for the raid, notwithstanding any agreement between Turkey and Israel for the compensation of the event.

In remarks to Sunday’s Zaman, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said that an agreement with Israel would have an effect on the civil lawsuits that the families of the raid victims have initiated. “There are lawsuits filed by those who would receive the compensation.

We are aware of their demands. There are talks over acquiring 10 or 20 times the amount of compensation for the trials demanding compensation. If we come up with a bilateral agreement [with Israel], they [the families] will be required to waive their lawsuits, otherwise they will not receive any compensation,” Arınç stated.

Turkish and Israeli delegations have already held two rounds of talks over compensation — one in Ankara and the other in Tel Aviv. Turkish officials said that although there is an agreement with Israel over the parameters within which the compensation would be paid, a certain amount was not determined between the two countries. Arınç earlier said that a third round of talks would be held in order to finalize the agreement.

The Turkish-Israeli agreement that would be shaped after the talks is planned to require approval in the Turkish Parliament in the framework of an international agreement.

As part of the agreement on compensation, Israel wants lawsuits against its soldiers to be dropped.

According to Article 90 of the Turkish Constitution, international agreements prevail over domestic laws if there is a conflict between them and no appeal can be made to the Constitutional Court claiming the former are unconstitutional.

There are speculations that the bilateral agreement between the two would include an article that would remove the liability of Israeli soldiers over the Mavi Marmara incident, who have been tried in absentia in Turkey upon the charges of victims’ families and survivors of the incident.

An İstanbul court is hearing charges that were filed against four of Israel’s most senior retired commanders, including the ex-army chief, in absentia and could carry life sentences. Israel has called this a politically motivated “show trial.”

The families have reacted harshly to the attitude of Turkish government on the issue. “They are giving the impression that this file will be closed after talks with Israel. This is not something that the families can accept,” expressed İsmail Yılmaz, head of the İstanbul-based Mavi Marmara Association.

In order to mend ties, Ankara had three demands of Tel Aviv: an official apology from Israel for the 2010 Mavi Marmara raid, reparations for the families of the passengers killed on the ship and the lifting of the Gaza blockade. However, Israel does not accept the demand to end its blockade of Gaza as part of the negotiations, saying that it would clamp down even harder on the Palestinian territory if its security is threatened.

“The families [of the victims] do not find it appropriate to talk compensation prior to the removal of the Gaza blockade. Some say that these are talks only to agree on compensation. But if so, why is there discussion over dropping the lawsuits? If this is a compensation talk, let them discuss the compensation. But if they want to include the trials, they have to discuss the blockade as well,” Yılmaz remarked.

The criminal charges against the Israeli soldiers are within the scope of public prosecution, so they would only be dropped by a decision of the prosecutors, and any international agreement that would be made with Israel would not have an effect on them.

If the trials are dropped in Turkey, the families and their lawyers said that they would continue their struggle in international judicial institutions such as the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), on the grounds that the Turkish judiciary did not properly perform its duties.

“The lawsuits filed against Israeli soldiers are human rights cases and no international agreement would supersede them. This is what we think, and this is what the ECthR would think as well,” stated Cihat Gökdemir, a lawyer in the Mavi Marmara trial.

“Israel was claiming that the trials in Turkey are show trials. Now it is pressing Turkey to drop them. Israel is uncomfortable with these trials making their soldiers liable. But if the cases are dropped with ease, Israel’s claim that it they were show trials will be justified,” Gökdemir argued.

“The trials will continue. We will do everything necessary for that to happen,” vowed Çiğdem Topçuoğlu, wife of Çetin Topçuoğlu, killed during the raid.

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