Rights group: Impartial investigation for 2000 killing of Muhammad al-Dura

4 October 2007

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The now iconic scene of Muhammad al-Dura and his father Jamal before being shot on 30 September 2000. The footage that Israel is claiming was staged was recorded by Talal Abu Rahma for France 2 TV.

The Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) claimed yesterday that the video of the murder of Muhammad Jamal al-Dura on 30 September 2000 was staged by a cameraman in Gaza. The scene of the killing of the 11-year-old boy was one of the most moving ones ever broadcast during the second intifada that had started three days before the incident.

The video shows al-Dura and his father trying to take cover behind a concrete block while the father attempts to protect his son as Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) opened fire directly at them. The child was killed and the father was moderately injured in this incident. The video shows the child and the father in a desperate situation while neither of them pose any danger to the IOF. The video was broadcast by France 2 TV, and provoked strong condemnation at official and popular levels worldwide at the time.

Based on the GPO’s allegations, Israel stripped the credentials of the two journalists who taped the footage. The decision was approved, and therefore accepted, by Israel’s Prime Minister Office Legal Advisor. The GPO claims that IOF do not bear responsibility for killing the child.

Nevertheless, information and evidence collected by Al Mezan from the field rebut the GPO’s allegations. Al Mezan had availed its evidence to an international fact-finding mission in 2000. The mission encompassed the UN independent expert Professor John Dugard and fifteen experts. Al Mezan invited eyewitnesses and presented other evidence to the mission, which investigated the perpetration of multiple crimes by IOF in this incident. IOF also targeted an ambulance that tried to help al-Dura and his father and killed its driver, 48-year-old Fayiz Saleem al-Bilbissy.

Al Mezan noted that the murder of al-Dura occurred on the third day of the intifada, a time that saw the highest rate of killing of Palestinian children by IOF. According to the documented information, children were killed as they threw stones at Israeli soldiers who were well-protected inside barracks at the entrance of the road to the former settlement of Netsarim, south of Gaza City. This period was characterized by extensive passive resistance in the form of demonstrations and throwing stones.

Al Mezan views these claims and the measures taken by the GPO against the France 2 journalists as an attempt to repair Israel’s image, even after IOF commit crimes against civilians, and to intimidate media and deter their revealing of IOF’s illegal conduct.

The Center denounces the Israeli GPO’s claims and its decision, which is contrary to Israel’s legal obligations vis-a-vis the responsibility for the conduct of its own forces in the OPT. Israel is under the obligation to investigate violations of civilians’ human rights, to suppress such conduct and punish their perpetrators.

Al Mezan asserts that Israel has systematically employed a policy of cover-up and impunity as far as the criminal conduct of its forces in OPT is involved. The Center has documented hundreds of cases involving the likelihood of criminal conduct. The perpetrators have been protected and the crimes remain unpunished either in Israel or abroad. This policy is in itself a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and international penal law.

Therefore, Al Mezan calls for a serious, impartial international investigation in the murder of al-Dura and for bringing those who prove to be involved in it to justice. The Center also calls for enforcing the mechanisms of accountability as established by the international law against those who commit breaches the IHL and violations of human rights. Those mechanisms represent a crucial means of protecting human rights in our world.

This release has been edited for clarity.

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