Will the ICC look again at Mavi Marmara?

10 February 2015 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Last week, the Comoros broke new legal ground at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Lawyers representing the African island nation challenged the prosecutor's decision to reject the demand to open an official investigation into the events surrounding Israel’s raid on a flotilla of activists attempting to run a naval blockade off the Gaza Strip in 2010.

The Comoros-flagged Mavi Marmara (Photo: Flickr/yasinonat)
Image caption: 
The Comoros-flagged Mavi Marmara (Photo: Flickr/yasinonat)

In November 2014, after an 18-month-long preliminary examination of the events, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had rejected the original referral, which was initiated by the Comoros, a flag-owner of one of the ships. Her rejection was on grounds of gravity.

During the incident, when Israel Defense Forces boarded the vessels, which included the Comoros-flagged Mavi Marmara, nine activists were killed, one died later and several other activists and Israel soldiers were injured.

Lawyers for the Comoros argue that the situation is so important it deserves an oral hearing before the court. They also claim the situation has changed because, in the meantime, Palestine joined the ICC. This incident and the surrounding circumstances concerning the economic blockade of the Gaza Strip could therefore be seen as part of a future wider case, they say.

The request raises new legal issues for the court: the Rome Statute allows the prosecutor to revisit decisions. But this is the first time a state has requested such a review. The lawyers specifically criticized the length of time it had taken for the prosecutor to make her preliminary report.

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