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Falk: Double standards in international law
Richard Falk, professor of international law, analyzed Mavi Marmara trial.
Palestine, MiddleEast, Turkey 02.11.2012

In Istanbul to attend a number of international meetings, world-known American professor of international law Richard A. Falk discussed the Mavi Marmara trial set to be held in Çağlayan Courthouse on 6 November.   

Speaking to Zümrüt Sönmez from Media Department of IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, Falk criticized international law. 

American professor Richard Falk, who is also UN Special Rapporteur, stated that international law, particularly the United Nations, failed in the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara attack, and added that the staging of such a trial in Turkey was a significant effort in terms of guarding the values of international law.   


The United Nations failed to fulfill its obligations in the process following the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara vessel that was carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the death of nine humanitarian aid volunteers, Falk noted and stressed how important it was in terms of making international law effective that such a lawsuit was filed in Turkey. 

“It [Mavi Mamara trial] demonstrates also that national courts can play a role in making international law effective.”

Falk interpreted the trial as Turkey’s fight for international law, and pointed out that the initiative showed how national courts could play a role in setting international law in motion. 


With this trial, ordinary people found the opportunity to enforce international law as a response to the failure of the UN system and wrong doing of independent states, and to educate the public about violations of law and the necessity of addressing these violations in a serious manner, he said.

“Double standards in international law”

In terms of international law Turkey registered commendable progress with such lawsuits, Falk stated, “It is regrettable that Israel is unprepared to participate in such legal undertaking and of course the punishment for those responsible for such a crime should be much heavier.”

Falk underlined Turkey is an influential actor at international arena and spoke on the legal process surrounding the Mavi Marmara attack: 

“International law in this area involving rules of course is very dependent on political will. You can have very developed law and good expectations that at least the political will implements what the law requires without imposing its interests. However, governments use international criminal law when it served a geopolitical interest but they avoid it when it involved their own accountability. So one has to recognise that there are double standards in international law and some are punished and others are not held accountable.”

In this regard, the Mavi Marmara attack brought about a fundamental shift in international community, and the Turkish government has in many respects tried to encourage the change of this system of double standards, Falk noted.  


“Deterioration of Israel-Turkey relations preceded Mavi Marmara”

According to Falk, the Mavi Marmara attack gave new aspect to the rift between Turkey and Israel that had begun much earlier. And it was based on the fact that the Erdogan-led Turkey was much more supportive of the Palestinian struggle and it particularly condemned Israel’s role in the attack on Lebanon in 2006 and the attack on Gaza in 2008. 

Falk pointed to the confrontation between Erdoğan and Shimon Peres as a symbolic expression of the deterioration in Turkey-Israel relations that was growing well before the Mavi Marmara incident. 

Falk stated there were two different views in Israel to relations with Turkey and continued:

“Some feel that the relationship with Turkey is essential to the national security given the confrontation with Iran and given the other developments in the region, others feel that no reason for Israel to compromise in relation to Turkey or the Palestinians because it has the friendship of the US and support of the US and it can do what it essentially wants to do in the region and it is more powerful militarily than Turkey with the nuclear weapon.”

“Arab Spring encouraging for Palestinian question”

Richard Falk, who is also the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, interpreted as encouraging for the Palestinian question the revolutionary movements in the Middle East called Arab Spring. He said although world public opinion, world media and the UN were preoccupied with developments in the region and the Palestinian issue has been eclipsed, these developments were encouraging in the long run, adding:     

“The Arab spring brings to power political leaders that are more in touched with the feelings of people of their country and are likely to be more engaged in supporting the Palestinian struggle. Palestinians in a longer term will have the possibility that will again open this conflict to a greater international, regional scope.”

Who is Richard Falk?

Richard Falk is a professor of internal law at Princeton University and visiting professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of more than 40 books. He is also the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories. A Jewish-American citizen, Falk has described Israel’s policy towards Palestine as crime against humanity. A prominent critic of Israel’s regional policies, Falk was detained and deported at Ben Gurion Airport in 2009 on his way to the Gaza Strip, and prevented from entering Gaza as representative of the UN. Falk condemned the acquittal verdict by Israeli court over the death of American human rights activists Rachael Corrie by an Israeli army bulldozer running over her, and stated that the verdict contradicted the article of Geneva Convention that states “the occupying force has to protect civilian population.”       

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