An interview on the findings of a commission into the Gaza flotilla incident
A fact finding mission into the interception of a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza has led to accusations that some of those on board were summarily executed.
The flotilla was stormed by Israeli forces in May this year as it tried to break the Israeli blockade on the Gaza strip, a Palestinian enclave bordering the sea and surrounded by Israel.
The Chairman of the mission, Karl Hudson-Phillips, reported to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on the findings.
Un Radio's Reem Abaza asked him if the report was one-sided.
PHILLIPS: Not in our view. We saw 120 witnesses of a possible 723. We listened carefully to what they had to say. We also looked at the physical evidence, and physical evidence is usually trustworthy because it can't fabricate. We think that we came to fairly solid conclusions based on the facts.
REEM: Your requests to visit Israel and have access to officials and documents were not accepted by the Israeli authorities. How do you think that affected your mission?
PHILLIPS: Well, in the final analysis, I don't think it affected us. It would have been desirable to hear if there were some other side being put forward. But when you consider the actual evidence we found, it would have been near nigh impossible for any other conclusion to come to. For instance, that in at least two of the cases people were summarily executed, put to death, from the physical evidence. That could not change. Now the other thing is of course that we came to the conclusion in law that the blockade was illegal because of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. So that the conduct from the start of the Israeli forces was unlawful – you must remember that.
REEM: How did you make sure you got the most factual information by only interviewing one side of the story, mainly the passengers?
PHILLIPS: You can't say there was one side. There was120 sides. We saw 120 witnesses. And remember you had on your panel persons who are experienced in determining whether a person is speaking the truth. And a multiplicity of witnesses would not necessarily change a situation, particularly where the physical evidence is speaking at you or to you very eloquently.
REEM: Do you have anything to say about what the Israeli ambassador mentioned yesterday: that your report wasn't impressed by the work 'til now that was done by the New York mission?
PHILLIPS: Well, I don't expect everybody to agree with our report. From what I understand, it is not the first time that the Israeli Ambassador is critical of an international fact-finding mission.
REEM: What would you say to critics who question the purpose of the report?
PHILLIPS: Well, let me tell you, this mission approached this job very seriously and very impartially. We were totally divorced from the politics of the matter absolutely, and I would reject any such suggestion about the work of this mission.
REEM: What are the actions that are the actions that should be taken now so that you feel you had accomplished your mission?
PHILLIPS: I've accomplished by reporting, madam. It is now for the Council to take whatever action it sees fit on the basis of what conclusions the mission has.
PRESENTER: Karl Hudson-Phillips, chairman of the UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission into the Gaza flotilla incident.
Document Type: Audio, Multimedia
Document Sources: Department of Public Information (DPI), Human Rights Council
Subject: Gaza Strip, Human rights and international humanitarian law, Humanitarian relief, Legal issues, NGOs/Civil Society
Publication Date: 28/09/2010