Mavi Marmara Incident

On 31 May 2010, Israeli military forces intercepted a number of vessels attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. As described in testimony by IDF officers and soldiers, the Israeli forces, upon boarding one of the vessels – the Mavi Mamara – were attacked by persons on-board the vessel. In the ensuing fighting a number of on-board individuals were killed and a number of Israeli military personnel seriously injured.  A Turkish jihadist organization, the IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), played a central role in provoking the violent confrontation. Official inquiries into the incident were conducted by Israel, Turkey, and United Nations.  There was considerable diplomatic maneuvering over the incident, finally resulting in an agreement in 2016 between Israel and Turkey, with Israel agreeing to $20 million in compensation and resolving the matter between the two countries. 

Though the Mavi Marmara is a Turkish flagged ship, it was briefly registered under the flag of the Comoros Islands during the period in which the incident took place, this being the jurisdictional basis on which the Comoros Islands brought the incident before the International Criminal Court (ICC).  The ICC proceeding is still ongoing as of May 2020, notwithstanding the agreement between Israel and Turkey.

Investigations and Reports on the Incident

Israeli Inquiries
Turkel Commission Report – Part 1 – 23 Jan 2011    English    Hebrew
       Summary of Part 1
Turkel Commission Report – Part 2 – 2013      English     Hebrew
        Annex C – Comparative Survey
Review and Implementation of Turkel Report – 2015      English
Report of State Comptroller  – 2012    Hebrew    Website Version
News Accounts (English):  Globes   Jerusalem Post    Haaretz
UN Secretary-General’s Inquiry

UN Human Rights Council (HRC) Fact-Finding Mission
HRC Resolution 14/1, authorizing “fact-finding” mission, 23 June 2010
HRC Report of the “fact-finding” mission, 27 Sep 2010
International Criminal Court 
Preliminary Examination This proceeding was commenced in 2013 by the Union of the Comoros, the state in which the Mavi Mamara was temporarily registered at the time of the incident.  After lengthy proceedings including appeals and remittances to the ICC prosecutor, prosecutor concluded that the matter should be closed. Further appeals were rejected by the Court in December 2020.
Cohen et al. v. Minister of Defense, HCJ 4169/10 (June 2010).  At the conclusion of the flotilla incident, the foreign passengers of the ships which had participated in the flotilla were removed and detained in Israel.  The question before the court in this group of proceedings was whether or not those passengers should be released and deported to their home countries or held for possible criminal prosecution.  The Court concluded that they should be released.   
Opinion of the High Court of Justice    English      Hebrew

Bauer v. The Mavi Marmara
, 774 F.3d 1026, D.C. Cir. (2014), aff’g, 942 F.Supp.2d 31 (D.D.C.2013). 
Lawsuit in New York Federal Court seeking seizure of the ships used in the flotilla. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Dr. Alan Bauer, a US citizen who was seriously injured in a Palestinian terror attack in March 2002. The lawsuit contended that the ships were outfitted with funds unlawfully raised in the United States and that furnishing funds to be used for hostilities against a U.S. ally violates the Neutrality Act, 18 U.S.C. § 962, a statute that provides for seizure of such property.  The federal government, appearing as an interested party, asserted that plaintiff did not have standing to proceed.  The District Court dismissed the complaint and the Court of Appeals affirmed, though on a different ground.

Fendel v. Inmarsat, Fla. Cir. Ct., Miami-Dade Co., No. 11-19912-A-15 (2011).  Civil action in the Florida state court against global satellite company, Inmarsat. The complaint alleged that the company was providing essential communications services to ships used by suspected terror organizations in the Gaza flotilla. According to the lawsuit, Inmarsat and its corporate officers were in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2339A and 2339B, provisions of a U.S. criminal statute prohibiting the provision of material support to terrorists or foreign terrorist organizations.  The case was removed to the Federal Court for the Southern District of Florida.  Plaintiff’s motion to remand to the Florida state was denied, after which it was voluntarily discontinued.
Doğan v. Barak, 932 F.3d 888 (9th Cir. 2019).  The family of a victim of the 2010 Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara sued former Prime Minister of the State of Israel seeking to hold him liable for alleged torts committed during the Mavi Marmar confrontation while he was the Minister of Defense.  

Schermerhorn, et al. v. Israel,
876 F.3d 351 (D.C. Cir. 2017), aff’g. 235 F. Supp. 3d 249 (D.D.C. 2017).  A group of passengers of one of the boats involved in the Mavi Marmara flotilla, Challenger I, brought this federal suit against Israel and its ministries of defense, foreign affairs, justice and public security, alleging that Israeli soldiers illegally boarded their ship and assaulted them. The court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that “Israel has not waived its sovereign immunity under either the tort exception or the terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.”  The lower court decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
Turkish Litigation.  Both civil and criminal proceedings were brought in the Turkish courts. The civil proceeding, seeking compensation, was commenced on 5 Oct 2012, by a group of relatives of Turkish citizens killed during the confrontation on the Mavi Marmara.  The criminal trial was commenced in May 2012, in absentia, by the Turkish State Prosecutor’s Office against four high-level Israeli military commanders.  After Israel and Turkey concluded their June 2016 agreement reconciling the countries’ differences with respect to the incident, the Turkish prosecutor requested dismissal of the criminal case on 2 Dec 2016,.  The request was granted on 9 Dec 2016.  It appears that the civil proceeding was also discontinued at that time.  Family members did ultimately receive compensation from the $20 million fund set up through the agreement between Israel and Turkey.  
Selected Resources on Naval Blockades

Web Resources on the 2010 Flotilla – Israeli Foreign Ministry