Thirteen British peace activists from the Gaza flotilla met with Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt MP, at 11 a.m, today. The meeting was the first between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the group of activists, taking place almost two weeks after most activists returned to the UK following their ordeal.
Others present at the meeting, which lasted 1 hour 10 minutes, included representatives from the Consular Directorates and FCO staff.
Activists response to the meeting
The activists described a sense of frustration at a press conference following the meeting, stating that the inadequate response from the FCO has been astounding and would not be witnessed if any other country in the world was the perpetrator. It can be construed as a lack of commitment to the safety of its nationals abroad.
Ismail Patel, Chair of Friends of Al Aqsa observed: "Following this meeting, we feel heavily disheartened because we had faith that our government would do all it could for us, yet it appears that they allowed themselves to be bullied by Israel so that even the consulate staff could not visit some of us. In addition, the only way the real facts behind this attack will be made clear to the world is if a truly international investigation is launched, and this is something our government refuses to call for.
"We will not allow the killing of 9 innocent men to be whitewashed by an Israeli investigation which will not consult the victims nor the Israeli attackers in order to make its findings. We will continue to call for the return of all evidential materials and an independent investigation, and we will put pressure on our government to take this line with Israel".
For further comments, please contact Ismail Patel, firstname.lastname@example.org
Details of the meeting
The activists presented an account of the Israeli attack on the Flotilla and the inadequate response from the British Consulate in Jerusalem, who failed to meet some of the activists at all.
A number of requests were made by the activists, including:
1. Immediate return of the three missing British passports which Israel failed to give back when the activists were released from prison.
2. Return of all personal possessions, goods and property which were illegally confiscated from activists. After receiving legal advice the activists hold the view that their possessions were illegally appropriated and their rights are guaranteed by the Fourth Geneva Convention. An international statement concerning the legal consequences of the attack on the Flotilla, focusing on the War Crime of extensive appropriation of property, which has been compiled by Hickman Rose solicitors in conjunction with partners world-wide, was presented to the Minister.
3. Return of possessions is to include all audio and photographic materials which documented the attack and corroborate the real version of events on May 31. 20 activists on board were journalists and all of their footage was appropriated. This footage will be essential for any international investigation.
4. The British government to call for an international UN led inquiry into the attack on the Flotilla, as Israel's proposed enquiry falls far short of an adequate standard to ensure a true investigation.Response
Mr Burt responded as follows:
1. Promise to make a public call for an immediate return of the missing passports 'within days'.
2. Undertake to call privately for Israel to return all possessions belonging to activists.
3. The British government is willing to accept an enquiry by Israel into the attack on the Flotilla and will not call for an independent international enquiry.
4. Despite the grave and serious nature of Israel's attack on the Flotilla, Mr Burt refused to facilitate a meeting between the activists and the Foreign Secretary William Hague MP.