GENEVA: The UN rapporteur on Palestine said on Tuesday the use of force against Palestinian protesters by Israel could amount to “willful killing” and “war crime”.
In a statement, Michael Lynk, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Palestine, called on Israel to cease its lethal assault against protesters along the Gaza border, who appear to pose no credible threat to Israeli forces.
“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,” he said.
“The killing of demonstrators in violation of these rules, and within the context of occupation, may amount to willful killing, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as a war crime,” he said.
He also warned that the death toll may rise “sharply” in the coming days unless Israeli authorities uphold their obligations under international human rights and 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.
He also called on the international community to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into these killings, as well as into those that have occurred in the context of these demonstrations since March 30.
Earlier in the day, UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in a press conference at Geneva that: “We condemn the appalling, deadly violence in Gaza yesterday during which 58 Palestinians were killed and almost 1,360 demonstrators were injured with live ammunition by Israeli security forces,” .
Noting that 155 injured protesters are in critical condition, Colville said six children and a health worker were among those who lost their lives during the protests.
Also, 10 journalists have been injured in gunfire by Israeli security forces, he added.
“We are still witnessing cases in which injured demonstrators are effectively prevented by Israel from exiting Gaza for treatment,” he said.
At least 60 Palestinian demonstrators were martyred and thousands more injured by Israeli forces deployed along the other side of the border. Thousands of Palestinians have gathered on Gaza Strip’s eastern border since Monday morning to take part in protests aimed to commemorate the Nakba anniversary and protest relocating of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The rallies will culminate on Tuesday, May 15, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s establishment — an event Palestinians refer to as the “Nakba” or “the Catastrophe”.
The UN spokesman added that Israel is violating international law. “The rules on the use of force under international law have been repeated many times but appear to have been ignored again and again. 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,” he said.
According to UN, 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 protesters tried to damage the fence that separates Gaza from Israel while 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,” he said. (AA)