Geneva - Israel’s hijacking of the Swedish Marianne ship, one of four trying to sail to Gaza as part of “Freedom Flotilla 3,” is a blatant violation of all international human rights conventions and related law, says Ramy Abdu, PhD, chair of Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor.

“According to the testimonies of activists aboard, the Swedish-flagged ship was 100 miles away from the Gaza Strip, in international waters, when Israeli navy forces seized control of the ship,” says Abdu. “This was a violation of Swedish sovereignty.”

Abdu adds that this act was perpetrated in violation of articles 94 and 89 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which state that, “Every state shall effectively exercise its jurisdiction and control in administrative, technical and social matters over ships flying its flag,” as well as that “No state may validly purport to subject any part of the high seas to its sovereignty.”

On July 1, the Geneva-based Euro-Med Monitor issued a press release in which testimonies of activists aboard the Marianne were documented. The passengers said that Israeli navy forces commanded them to move the Swedish-flagged ship to Ashdod seaport, but the crew refused to do so. Israeli soldiers then initiated an assault in which electrical stun guns, which Euro-Med Monitor says constitutes “humiliating treatment of humanitarian activists who traveled a long distance to challenge an unlawful blockade that has been condemned repeatedly with UN resolutions.” Fourteen of the 18 civilian passengers and crew remain in Israeli custody more than two days after their violent abduction.

“Israel is reportedly trying to force these activists to sign a statement ‘confessing’ to attempting to enter Israel illegally, in exchange for their release,” says Abdu. “However, the activists have rejected to the offer due to the falsity of the accusation. This is their right and it should be protected.”

Euro-Med Monitor calls on Israel to halt its illegal control of international waters in the eastern Mediterranean, and to cease its frequent acts of piracy in the area. It also demands that Israel immediately free the innocent activists, and that the passengers’ governments, including those of Norway, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, ensure their safety and protection.