SA to probe journo’s Gaza ordeal

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IOL news nov 15 st gadija FILER INSLA Gadija Davids, Radio 786 Journalist during her press conference after arriving back in Cape Town. Davids was aboard a humanitarian aid boat headed to the Gaza strip, which was intercepted by the Isreali navy. Picture: Gareth Smit

Johannesburg - She survived an onslaught on a ship carrying aid to Gaza, and was abducted, detained and interrogated by Israeli officials before being stuffed into a windowless, cockroach-infested van.

More than two years on, Gadija Davids, a Cape journalist, who was held captive in Israel in 2010, has received the best news ever - South African authorities have finally agreed to launch an investigation into the “inhumane” treatment she and fellow journalists, government officials and aid workers were subjected to while travelling to Gaza through Israel.

Travelling in one of three ships laden with aid for Palestinians in Gaza, Davids was among 40 international journalists aboard the Mavi Marmara in May 2010 when their ship was attacked.

According to media reports at the time, she and the other women were kept below deck, and from there they could hear voices through the intercom screaming “stop attacking, we are unarmed”.

Once the Israeli commandos had seized the boat, they took their captives to an Israeli prison where they intimidated and made them sign admission of guilt forms.

Other captives included activists and government workers from various countries. Those released along with Davids were later transported in the back of a windowless, cockroach-infested van and taken to the airport, where they were deported to Turkey.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokeswoman Bulelwa Makeke confirmed on Wednesday that their priority crimes litigation unit had undertaken to probe the matter.

She would, however, not reveal the nature of investigations. But in a letter addressed to Davids’s lawyers, the unit said “reasonable grounds” existed for an investigation. The decision was to be communicated in writing to the International Criminal Court.

“This decision instils my faith and credibility in South Africa’s commitment to the protection of human rights,” Davids said on Thursday.

With only two years of her 10-year ban from Palestine lapsed, Davids said she would not hesitate to return to Israel and cover human rights-related stories, if given a chance. She has just returned from Istanbul, where she testified in a Turkish trial against four Israeli commandos believed to have been involved in the 2010 attack.

Her lawyer, Ziyaad Patel, said the NPA’s decision reinforced “the rule of law, respect for human rights and South Africa’s responsibility in meeting its international obligations”.

Tahir Sema, of the Coalition for Free Palestine, also commended the decision.

“The decision provides us with an opportunity for reinforcing our common cause and ideal to seek justice in a world that is continually plagued with oppression, poverty and inequality,” said Sema.

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