UN rights chief calls on Israel to address use of excessive force

UN rights chief calls on Israel to address use of excessive force

Following a month of violent clashes between the Palestinian protesters and the Israeli military, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Friday urged [statement] the Israeli government to address its military’s use of excessive deadly force against Palestinian civilians.

Over the past month, 42 Palestinians have been killed, and more than 5,500 injured. More than 1,700 of the incidents involved use of live ammunition by Israeli soldiers. Palestinian children were also participating in the protests. Four children have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers, and a total of 233 children have been injured by live ammunition. Injured protesters seeking treatment outside of Gaza were sometimes barred by the military from leaving the area.

The protests are part of the Great Return March [Twitter page] movement that began early 2018. The march symbolizes a return of the Palestinian people to their homes prior to Israeli occupation. The marches, taking place in Gaza, inevitably bring the protesters face to face with Israeli security posts and barricades.

Zeid said:

I am extremely concerned that by the end of today—and next Friday, and the Friday after that—more unarmed Palestinians who were alive this morning will have been killed, simply because, while exercising their right to protest, they approached a fence, or otherwise attracted the attention of the soldiers on the other side.

Zeid cited international law, which states that all individuals have a right to peaceful assembly. Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text] states “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”

Zeid went on to say: “It is difficult to see how tire-burning or stone-throwing, or even Molotov-cocktails thrown from a significant distance at heavily protected security forces in defensive positions can be seen to constitute such threat.”

Although the Israeli Security Force’s official policy regarding rules of engagement against civilian targets is not made available to the public, the UN is under the impression that Israeli soldiers are authorized to use deadly force only when there is imminent threat. Zeid suggested the actions of the Israeli soldiers amounted to unlawful use of force against civilians which is prohibited under Article 147 [text, ICRC] of the Fourth Geneva Convention “These trends call into question to what extent the ISF’s rules of engagement, which are not public, are in line with international law, or at least to what degree the ISF abides by its own rules,” said Zeid.

“Israel’s failure to consistently prosecute violations committed by members of its security forces, encourages them to use deadly force against their fellow unarmed human beings, even when they present no threat.”