July 1, 2010, Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed eight Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests regarding the United States government’s knowledge of, and actions in relation to, the May 31, 2010 attack by Israel on a flotilla of six vessels in international waters seeking to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, and U.S. policy towards the blockade of Gaza, which has entered its fourth year. The FOIA requests were made to a number of U.S. departments and agencies, including the Coast Guard, the Department of State, the Navy and the U.S. European Command.
“One U.S. citizen was killed, others were injured, detained and had their property taken, and a U.S.-registered vessel seized by Israel during its attack in international waters last month,” said CCR attorney Katherine Gallagher. “Serious questions remain unanswered about the U.S. response to the attack, its actions and policies, particularly in the context of the blockade of Gaza, internationally condemned as illegal and unjust. Citizens need to know their government will protect their rights under U.S. and international law vis-à-vis a foreign government, including Israel—the biggest recipient of U.S. aid over the last fifty years.”
Specifically, the FOIA requests seek information on what, if any, communications were made between the U.S. government and Israel prior to and after the attack; what, if any, information the U.S. shared before or after with Israel about any of the U.S. citizens abroad; what was done to secure the release of detained citizens; and what is being done to return property seized from U.S. citizens and other passengers and to ensure that such property, which includes evidence for any investigations into the attack, is not tampered with or destroyed. A FOIA request was also made regarding communications with other countries and with organizations such as NATO in relation to the attack on the flotilla and the delivery of humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Finally, a request was made for information about U.S. policy towards Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which has been found to be a form of “collective punishment” by various representatives of the United Nations.
Fourteen U.S. citizens were part of the flotilla, five of whom were on the U.S.-registered vessel Challenger I and one of whom was killed on the Mavi Marmara. U.S. citizens were injured, and their property, including computers, video and photographic equipment which contain potential evidence for investigations, was seized and appropriated by Israel and has not been returned. CCR issued a statement with other rights groups last month demanding that the U.S. insist that Israel release seized property forthwith.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.