June 02, 2010

Mr. Ho Demolishes Israel's San Remo Maritime Law Defense

NYT comment No. 247 by Mr. Ho of NJ - intelligent refutation of Israel's claims that the raids on the Freedom Flotilla boats was lawful under maritime law.  This is a must-read for those trying to figure out whether or not Israel's defense holds water, as it were. (Thank you Mr. Ho):

The San Remo manual is not a treaty, it is a manual published by a group of experts in their personal capacity.


"The San Remo Manual was prepared during the period 1988-1994 by a group of legal and naval experts participating in their personal capacity in a series of Round Tables convened by the International Institute of Humanitarian Law."

Supposedly the manual is a restatement of the current law, but a restatement is a secondary work and not a primary source of law like a treaty. Also, if you read it carefully, you will have noticed that the manual restates law applicable to armed conflicts. Whether there is an armed conflict at all is a vastly open question, as "armed conflict" is generally defined as conflict between states by international humanitarian law. That's how the Bush administration tried to argue that the Geneva Conventions do not apply in Afghanistan etc., because Taliban was never recognized by the U.S. as a legitimate government - unfortunately for them, they overlooked something called "Common Article 3" that applies also to internal conflicts. But in this case, whether manual restates law applicable to non-international and possibly even internal conflict is highly dubious. In fact, the Israeli government has long been justifying its practices with its view that the conflict with the Palestinians is not an international armed conflict and thus the Geneva Conventions do not apply, so I doubt that they will suddenly turn abound and announce that the conflict is an international armed conflict. In the unlikely case that they do, a lot of their past actions will become illegal acts, as they have not granted POW rights to Palestinians.

P.S. If you want a primary source, I suggest you look up U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
'Videos carry on the fight over sea raid'; Brian Stelter; NYT; June 2, 2010
Note:  My comment: 

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