MIDDLE EAST

UN experts condemn Israel for violence on Palestinians

UN human rights experts on Tuesday slammed Israeli security forces for killing Palestinians near the Gaza fence by using firearms, including live ammunition.

In a statement, the experts said: "UN human rights experts have condemned the continued use of firearms, including live ammunition, by Israeli security forces against mostly unarmed Palestinian protesters and observers for a third straight week near the fence between occupied Gaza and Israel."

Among the UN experts were Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing; Miche Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Idriss Jazairy Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights; Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Nyaletsossi Clement Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and association.

The UN and its independent human rights experts, along with the International Criminal Court, have expressed grave concern about the Israeli security forces' use of force, and called for an end to the violence.

"Despite Israel's commitment to investigate the events of the past few weeks, security forces continue to use live ammunition and rubber bullets against the protesters, killing and wounding dozens of mostly unarmed protesters, women, men and children alike.

"We express our outrage over these shootings that may have resulted in unlawful killings and the incomprehensibly high number of injuries sustained," the statement said.

According to the UN, at least 28 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,600 wounded by Israeli security forces during a series of demonstrations that began on March 30 and are set to continue until May 15.

The participants are protesting their forced evictions and displacement since 1948 and calling for an end to the 11-year blockade on Gaza.

Lethal force illegal

Among those killed were three children and a journalist, who was wearing a clearly visible insignia identifying him as a member of the press. Six other journalists have so far been wounded, the experts said.

"No evidence has emerged showing that such a situation occurred during the demonstrations that would make the lethal force used legal," they said.

Noting that the freedoms of association, assembly, and expression have been all fundamental rights under international human rights law, the experts said: "These rights are to be given broad protection, and can only be restricted in narrow and exceptional circumstances.

"Israel must fully observe these rights, and ensure that their approaches to crowd control and demonstrations are in strict accordance with international law."

The deadly use of force against demonstrators could constitute crimes under the Rome Statute, the experts said, adding: "The deaths and injuries since 30 March by the Israeli security forces appeared to be in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), The Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (1990) and the prohibitions in the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 against willful killings and the serious injury of the protected population."

The UN experts also reiterated their call on the international community, through the UN, to establish an independent commission to investigate the events of the past three weeks.

"While Israel's announcement that it will launch a probe is welcome, we are concerned that the planned probe may lack the independence, impartiality and effectiveness required by the international law," they said.

"We call for an immediate end to the 11-year-old comprehensive blockade on Gaza, which is imposing untold suffering on the population," the experts added.

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