UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 Michael Lynk condemned Israel's excessive use of force towards largely unarmed demonstrators at the Gaza fence on Monday, which has left at least 61 Palestinians dead, and almost 2,800 wounded. He expressed grave fears this figure could rise sharply in coming days unless Israeli authorities uphold their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
‘This blatant excessive use of force by Israel an eye for an eyelash must end, and there must be true accountability for those in military and political command who have ordered or allowed this force to be once again employed at the Gaza fence,’ he said.
‘I must reiterate that international human rights law sets strict prohibitions on the use of force by law enforcement officials. Lethal force against demonstrators is prohibited unless strictly unavoidable in the case of an imminent threat to life or threat of serious injury. The killing of demonstrators in violation of these rules, and within the context of occupation, may amount to wilful killing, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as a war crime,’ he added.
The Rapporteur also expressed deep concern at the apparent disregard by Israeli forces for the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. ‘These fundamental rights belong to all peoples, and they must be permitted to exercise them within reasonable bounds. There appears to be no persuasive evidence that the use of flammable kites, throwing of stones or Molotov cocktails, or other actions reportedly taken by a small number of the demonstrators presented a deadly threat that justified the force used by the Israeli military.’
Lynk repeated his calls to the international community, through the United Nations, to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into these killings, as well as those that have occurred in the context of these demonstrations since 30 March. ‘Impunity for these actions is not an option. Justice for the victims must become a priority for the international community,’ he said.
United Nations High Commissioner Office on Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesman Rupert Colville said that the rules on the use of force under international law have been repeated many times ‘but appear to have been ignored’.
He added that ‘It seems anyone is liable to be shot dead or injured: women, children, press personnel, first responders, bystanders, and at almost any point up to 700m from the fence.’
Colville said: ‘A number of the demonstrators approached the fence, threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces personnel, and flew kites laden with petrol soaked material. Some tried to damage the fence that separates Gaza from Israel. Others burnt tires. Israeli forces responded with tear gas, plastic bullets and various types of live ammunition, some causing horrific wounds and lifelong disability. We stress, again, that lethal force may only be used as a measure of last not first resort, and only when there is an immediate threat to life or serious injury. An attempt to approach or crossing or damaging the fence do not amount to a threat to life or serious injury and are not sufficient grounds for the use of live ammunition. This is also the case with regards to stones and molotov cocktails being thrown from a distance at well-protected security forces located behind defensive positions.’ (QNA)
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