UN rights experts ‘deeply troubled’ by impunity for killing of Palestinian children

17 December 2020

UN independent human rights experts, on Thursday, called for an impartial and independent investigation into the killing of a 15-year-old child by Israeli security forces at a West Bank protest this month. 

“The killing of Ali Ayman Abu Aliya by the Israeli Defense Forces – in circumstances where there was no threat of death or serious injury to the Israeli Security Forces – is a grave violation of international law,” special rapporteurs Michael Lynk and Agnès Callamard said in a statement

“Intentional lethal force is justified only when the security personnel are facing an immediate threat of deadly force or serious harm,” they added. 

The boy was the sixth Palestinian child killed in 2020 by Israeli forces using live ammunition, said the experts. On 4 December, he was shot in the abdomen by an Israeli soldier, during protests by Palestinian youths against the construction of a nearby illegal Israeli settlement outpost. He died later that day in a hospital. 

Information gathered by OHCHR and civil society organizations indicated that protesters had thrown stones at Israeli Security Forces, who responded with rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas and, eventually, live ammunition. 

Some 1,048 Palestinian children have been injured by Israeli security forces across the Occupied Palestinian Territory between 1 November 2019 and 31 October 2020, added the experts, citing information received. 

“Children enjoy special protected rights under international law … each of these killings raises deep concerns about Israel’s adherence to its solemn human rights and humanitarian law obligations as the occupying power,” they said. 

Investigations ‘rarely result’ in accountability 

The Israeli Security Forces announced that they would conduct an investigation into Abu Aliya’s killing. The human rights experts noted, however, that investigations by the Israeli Defense Forces of fatal shootings of Palestinians by its soldiers rarely result in appropriate accountability. 

Civil society organizations have documented the deaths of 155 Palestinian children by Israeli Security Forces using live ammunition or crowd-control weapons since 2013, the experts added. Only three indictments on criminal charges have been issued for offences directly tied to those killings.  

In one case, the charges were dropped; the responsible soldier reached a plea deal and was sentenced to nine months jail for death by negligence; and in the third, a soldier was convicted of not obeying orders and sentenced to one month in military prison. 

Ensure children ‘no longer face death’ 

“This low level of legal accountability for the killings of so many children by Israeli security forces is unworthy of a country which proclaims that it lives by the rule of law,” the experts said. 

They called on the Government of Israel to either conduct an independent, impartial, prompt and transparent civilian investigation according to international standards, or to allow an international impartial and independent human rights review to be conducted. 

“Such an investigation – domestic or international – must be directed towards ensuring that children living under occupation no longer face death or injury when exercising their legitimate right to protest, and that the culture of impunity for military misconduct is ended.” 

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. The experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.  

 

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