An American teenager is shot execution style by foreign forces– how long can Obama ignore quest for justice for Furkan Dogan?

ActivismIsrael/Palestine
on 22 Comments
Furkan
American citizen Furkan Dogan was killed by Israeli forces as they raided the Mavi Marmara ship on May 31, 2010. (Photo via Associated Press)

It’s been three years since Furkan Dogan was killed on board the Mavi Marmara. His father, Ahmet Dogan, isn’t giving up his quest for accountability over his son’s death, and American human rights groups are now ramping up the pressure on the Obama administration. The U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation, in coalition with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), RootsAction and the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, has joined Ahmet Dogan’s push for a U.S. investigation into the death of the 18-year-old American.

The groups have started a petition drive which has already garnered nearly 14,000 signatures–4,000 more than their initial goal. They are set to deliver the petition to President Obama this month.

“We urge that the United States pursue justice and accountability for Furkan Dogan and all U.S. human rights defenders killed and injured by Israel,” the petition reads.

The petition drive was launched two weeks after the CCR authored a letter addressed to Obama that called on him to “publically acknowledge the killing of Furkan Doğan by Israel and support a U.S. investigation into his death.”

Dogan was part of the 2010 flotilla to Gaza that sought to break the blockade of the coastal territory. He was killed by Israeli naval commandos while he was filming the raid on the Mavi Marmara in what a United Nations Human Rights Council report called a “summary execution.” While the U.S. dismissed that report as biased, a separate UN report also stated that Furkan Doğan “was shot at extremely close range” and that “he may already have been lying wounded when the fatal shot was delivered.”

The activist push backs up the efforts of Dogan’s father, who recently joined Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on his trip to the U.S.; Turkish media outlet Hurriyet Daily News reported that Ahmet Dogan met with Secretary of State John Kerry on May 17. Dogan handed a letter to Kerry requesting that the U.S. initiate an investigation into the death of his son. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that Kerry assured them he would deliver the letter to Obama.

The flotilla deaths also came up during a joint Obama-Erdogan press conference at the White House. “In the attack against Mavi Marmara, which was taking humanitarian aid to Gaza, Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American citizen were killed. And as you know, we are working with the Israeli government for compensation for those who lost their lives,” Erdogan said while Obama was standing next to him. But the president remained silent on the flotilla deaths.

Obama’s silence was no surprise, and indicates that a U.S. investigation into Furkan Dogan’s death remains a longshot, despite his father’s repeated requests. The U.S. was also silent on the death of Furkan Dogan in the immediate aftermath of the raid on the Mavi Marmara, and ignored Ahmet Dogan’s phone calls for three days. That information was revealed by the CCR earlier this year after obtaining government documents through Freedom of Information Act requests.

“The documents related to Furkan reveal that the U.S. has an unquestioning deference to the government of Israel, even when the life of an American teenager is at stake,” Jessica Lee, a lawyer working with the CCR on Furkan Dogan’s case, told Mondoweiss in February 2013. “Despite this barbaric murder…the U.S. declined to investigate and deferred to Israel.”

In one meeting detailed in the documents, a State Department official told Ahmet Dogan that “as a rule” the U.S. doesn’t launch investigations into the deaths of American citizens overseas. But in June 2010, a State Department spokesman did say that an U.S. investigation was an option.

There is no precedent for the U.S. investigating the deaths of one of its own citizens in the wake of an Israeli military action. The U.S. did not independently investigate the case of Rachel Corrie, who was killed in Gaza by an Israeli bulldozer, despite American disapproval over how the Israeli investigation was carried out.

The continued focus by U.S. activists on the deaths aboard the 2010 flotilla comes as Israeli-Turkish negotiations continue over compensation to the families of victims killed on the Mavi Marmara. Haaretz recently reported that the compensation talks had hit a snag over the amount Turkey wants Israel to pay.

The International Criminal Court also recently announced that it opened a preliminary inquiry into the flotilla deaths. The inquiry was sparked by a request from Comoros, the state where the Mavi Marmara was registered.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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22 Responses

  1. just
    June 1, 2013, 12:17 pm

    YES!

    Furkan Dogan–murdered, but not forgotten, thank goodness! RIP brave one.

    I pray that this will go forward, that it will be widely publicized, and that we in America will be forced into the spotlight that we so richly deserve for being complicit, nay enablers, of Zionist and violent Israel.

    I also hope that it will prompt the necessary (imho) honest investigation into the murder of Rachel Corrie, (RIP).

    • just
      June 1, 2013, 10:49 pm

      It is murder.

      So far, sanctioned by us by not even asking any questions in PUBLIC.

  2. W.Jones
    June 1, 2013, 12:41 pm

    Weren’t there some US journalists who have been killed by them as well, like in the 2006 attack on Lebanon?

  3. Henry Norr
    June 1, 2013, 1:06 pm

    >Haaretz recently reported that the compensation talks had
    >hit a snag over the amount Turkey wants Israel to pay.

    Now that Netanyahu has (sort of) apologized, the Israelis want to pretend that the only remaining issue is the amount of compensation to the families of the victims, and it may be that the Turkish government has accepted this framework. To their enormous credit, though, the families are having none of it: at least so far, they continue to insist that there can be no settlement until the Israelis also lift the siege of Gaza, which was also one of the Turkish government’s original demands. The following is from a N.Y. Times report on April 20:

    …relatives of the nine people killed said Saturday that they would reject the compensation promised by Israel until it fully removes restrictions on the movement of goods and people in Gaza.

    The relatives also said that they would not drop their lawsuits against Israelis involved in the 2010 raid, potentially complicating the Washington-brokered reconciliation between the two governments that began last month when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to apologize.

    “Compensation and apology had always been government demands, not ours,” said Nimet Akyuz, whose husband, Cengiz Akyuz, was among those killed. “At this stage, we are going to see how sensitive and sincere the government really is about Gaza, the Palestinian situation.”

    Added Cigdem Topcuoglu, who was on board the flotilla’s lead ship, the Comoros-flagged Mavi Marmara, and whose husband was also killed, “We consider claims that we would give up our criminal cases against Israeli commanders and other legal cases in return for an apology and compensation as an insult.”

    The families’ position could create problems for the Turkish government, which had demanded an apology from Israel, compensation to the families and lifting the Gaza blockade as a condition for restoring relations.

    A more recent report from the Turkish press cites a clause in the Turkish constitution about international agreements taking precedence over domestic law (like the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution) and quotes a deputy prime minister saying “If we come up with a bilateral agreement [with Israel], they [the families] will be required to waive their lawsuits.” Needless to say, I’m no expert in Turkish law, but it seems pretty clear that the government can and will dismiss the criminal charges the families filed against a slew of Israeli soldiers and commanders. But the families say they will continue the struggle unless the siege is lifted:

    The criminal charges against the Israeli soldiers are within the scope of public prosecution, so they would only be dropped by a decision of the prosecutors, and any international agreement that would be made with Israel would not have an effect on them.

    If the trials are dropped in Turkey, the families and their lawyers said that they would continue their struggle in international judicial institutions such as the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), on the grounds that the Turkish judiciary did not properly perform its duties.

    “The lawsuits filed against Israeli soldiers are human rights cases and no international agreement would supersede them. This is what we think, and this is what the ECthR would think as well,” stated Cihat Gökdemir, a lawyer in the Mavi Marmara trial.

    • Hostage
      June 1, 2013, 2:23 pm

      A more recent report from the Turkish press cites a clause in the Turkish constitution about international agreements taking precedence over domestic law (like the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution) and quotes a deputy prime minister saying “If we come up with a bilateral agreement [with Israel], they [the families] will be required to waive their lawsuits.” Needless to say, I’m no expert in Turkish law, but it seems pretty clear that the government can and will dismiss the criminal charges the families filed against a slew of Israeli soldiers and commanders.

      It really doesn’t matter if international agreements take precedence over domestic Turkish law. The applicable international agreements, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas and the Rome Statute, all say that “The State on the territory of which the conduct in question occurred” was Comoros, not Turkey. That would be the proper jurisdiction to handle any civil or criminal cases. The government of Comoros just referred the situation to the ICC Prosecutor, so it’s doubtful that they are willing to simply drop the matter.

      • piotr
        June 1, 2013, 10:34 pm

        I also suspect that “international agreements” do not have precedence over domestic laws, unless they are ratified by the Parliament. Otherwise the executive could override any domestic law, and that would make no sense.

      • Hostage
        June 2, 2013, 6:44 pm

        I also suspect that “international agreements” do not have precedence over domestic laws, unless they are ratified by the Parliament. Otherwise the executive could override any domestic law, and that would make no sense.

        Turkey has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (Rome 1988). The latter agreement requires Turkey and other signatories, including the United States, to prosecute the perpetrators of any unlawful acts.

        It’s really up to the Courts to decide what is unlawful, although in this case the Turkish government produced a report for the UN Secretary General’s “Palmer” Inquiry which insisted that the attack was both unlawful and criminal. This article notes that even after the Israeli apology was received, Prime Minister Erdogan was still encouraging the US to investigate the killing of the American teenager who was apparently murdered during the raid.

        I don’t think that makes the question a likely candidate for an out-of-Court civil settlement.

  4. Henry Norr
    June 1, 2013, 4:35 pm

    I defer to your knowledge of international law, Hostage, but the current cases against the Israelis are in Turkish courts, and it’s those the Israelis want to get rid of by paying some money to the families who filed them.

    What do you think the odds are of the ICC Prosecutor actually bringing a case?

    • Hostage
      June 1, 2013, 8:32 pm

      I defer to your knowledge of international law, Hostage, but the current cases against the Israelis are in Turkish courts, and it’s those the Israelis want to get rid of by paying some money to the families who filed them.

      From what I’ve read, the Turkish Courts don’t agree with the Cabinet’s position that a deal with Israel on compensation is even relevant to the criminal indictments. The lawyers for the families have stated that they would simply pursue the matter in other jurisdictions. It isn’t clear that the government can force them to accept compensation in exchange for dropping the criminal charges, e.g.

      Cihat Gokdemir, a lawyer in the trial, told Sunday’s Zaman that “The lawsuits filed against Israeli soldiers are human rights cases and no international agreement would supersede them. This is what we think, and this is what the European Court of Human rights would think as well.” . . . Sunday’s Zaman quoted Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc as saying that if a bilateral agreement is reached, the families of the victims “will be required to waive their lawsuits, otherwise they will not receive any compensation.”

      http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Families-of-Marmara-victims-wont-drop-charges-312937

      The power to deny the families compensation doesn’t appear to be the same thing as the power to order the families to drop the criminal charges.

      What do you think the odds are of the ICC Prosecutor actually bringing a case?

      That’s a good question, because we’ve never had a situation where a member state referred a situation involving a non-member state before. I suspect the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) will decide not to investigate, unless Palestine joins the Court and makes another referral of the blockade and the situations in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. A decision not to investigate from either the OTP or Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) is without prejudice to future prosecutions of the alleged offenses.

      Even if the OTP does decide that it doesn’t want to act at this time, Comoros can ask the Judges in the PTC to order an investigation anyway, in accordance with the terms of Article 53. The same procedural right applies to Cambodia, Greece, and Palestine too, if the latter decides to join the Court. It also looks like the Jordanian Parliament has voted to dismiss the Israeli Ambassador and that the King has signed an agreement on protection of the Holy Places that gives it the joint jurisdiction necessary to make member state referrals to the Prosecutor too. I commented on the significance of that agreement a couple of days ago. http://mondoweiss.net/2013/05/abbas-confidant-failed.html#comment-566407

      In the past, the Judges have been deferential with regard to discretionary decisions made by the OTP. But they’ve never been ruling against a request from a victim member state or group of member states before. I’d guess the odds would be about 50-50 that they would overrule the Prosecutor, but that still wouldn’t guarantee that OTP would decide to prefer charges against anyone.

  5. Daniel Rich
    June 1, 2013, 6:32 pm

    When you can kill 34 US sailors, wound 171, kill 4 UN members and a handful of other US/UK citizens without impunity or repercussions, why would this single ‘Turkish’ victim make any difference?

    When will Mondoweiss set an example and honor the [fallen] men of the USS Liberty or is that another ‘verboten’ and ‘self-censored’ area?

  6. ckg
    June 2, 2013, 1:18 pm

    Here is an opinion piece in the Times of Israel (6/2012) titled The Lie that Won’t Die: The U.S.S. Liberty Attack Slander:

    And now, courtesy of Annie Robbins of Mondoweiss, we see [Richard] Falk speaking last week about the “realities of the Israel Palestine conflict and how it has distorted the American reality,” before the St. Marks Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, where he added a new talking point on his resume of slanders upon the Jewish state: the attack on the USS Liberty, which occurred 45 years ago last June 8.

    Not sure why the MW link doesn’t appear to work.

  7. Blank State
    June 2, 2013, 7:14 pm

    “When will Mondoweiss set an example and honor the [fallen] men of the USS Liberty or is that another ‘verboten’ and ‘self-censored’ area?”

    As well, I have seen no effort here to underscore, or keep us posted, on the condition of Tristan Anderson, or Emily Henochowitz. Emily’s story has great value towards garnering the sympathies of the American public, opening the door to informing the masses about the true nature of the brutal occupation.

    • Annie Robbins
      June 2, 2013, 10:23 pm

      I have seen no effort here to underscore, or keep us posted, on the condition of Tristan Anderson, or Emily Henochowitz.

      because we just don’t do enough. got it. anyone who has the slightest interest in emily (like me) already knows she made a conscious decision to back away for awhile

      so out of respect i didn’t write a posts to say i wouldn’t be writing anymore posts until she resurfaced. thanks for the nag, at least you’re consistent. for USS liberty, scroll up..and while your at it why don’t you ask yourself when the last time you sent us a tip on tristan? or better yet why not write something yourself.

  8. Blank State
    June 2, 2013, 11:31 pm

    “or better yet why not write something yourself”

    And take the 50/50 chance the moderator here will allow my post to appear in a timely manner before the thread is archived?

  9. Blank State
    June 3, 2013, 10:50 pm

    ROFLMAO!!!!

    Right Annie. I can’t tell you how many times I have WASTED my time writing a lengthy comment here, only to have the moderator decide for unexplained reasons not to allow it to appear. Email queries as to “why” are equally a waste of time. So now you suggest I gamble effort, time, research, etc, on the risky proposition that any article I write will be seriously considered? Yeah, uh huh.

    • Annie Robbins
      June 3, 2013, 11:57 pm

      if it’s well written, absolutely. it might be hard for you to write something that isn’t one long complaint tho. to make it interesting it has to be more than a whine, might make it difficult for you.

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