Al Haq condemns assassinations in Nablus and Jenin

Al-Haq strongly condemns the gross violations of international law displayed by Israeli authorities in the recent events involving extra-judicial killings and targeted assassinations of 12 Palestinian political activists within the past three days alone.

On 13 September 2004 at 6:15 pm, Israeli forces killed three suspected Palestinian members in west Bank city of Jenin. Shortly before midnight of 15 September 2004, city dwellers of Nablus noted a build up of troops and artillery in the vicinity of a building in the old city, suspected of housing Palestinian activists. At around 5 am, they began shelling the building, thereby killing five of them and wounding 1 other. Ambulances were prevented from reaching the scene of the attack. Hours later on the same day, undercover Israeli units tracked down four more Palestinian activists in the city center of Jenin, and opened fire at them thereby killing them. 

According to eye-witness reports, Israeli forces had used deadly force from the start. In all three cases, the killings were carried out using live ammunition and the firing of missiles from tanks or helicopters. These constitute a blatant disregard for the fundamental right of everyone to the right to life and security of person, and demonstrate indiscriminate and excessive use of force by Israeli occupying forces.

Under international humanitarian law, there is neither a preventive nor punitive right to kill. Wilful killing of such nature is a war crime, and constitutes grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention which mandates universal jurisdiction.

Furthermore, the manner in which Israeli authorities select targets remains unchallenged and violates their duty to abide by the principles of necessity and proportionality, both of which constitute principles of customary international law. In this regard, the fact that their targets involved Palestinian political activists regardless of their affiliations, strongly suggests that this policy is systematically used as a military tactic to achieve political and military ends, and not as a result of imminent danger during combat.

Since the beginning of the Second Intifada 250 Palestinians have been victims of Israeli policies of targeted assassinations and extra-judicial killings throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), i.e. an estimated 5 Palestinians a month since the beginning of these killings in November 2000.

Under international human rights law, even where persons are suspected of being involved in criminal activity, governments are obliged to exhaust all other available measures to charge them and bring them to trial. Nevertheless Israels actions continue to escape judicial scrutiny to evidence that victims could have been arrested or killed.

According to international human rights instruments, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a persons inherent right to life cannot be derogated from, even “in time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation”. Therefore not all actions can be justified in the name of security or counter-terrorism measures, including targeted assassinations and wilful killings.

Moreover, the citing of these measures by the Israeli Occupying Power does not absolve third party states of their legal responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure respect for international humanitarian law. Political maneuvers such as the Israels announcements of withdrawal plans from Gaza should by no means divert the attention of the international community from the grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law that are taking place.

Although strongly condemned by United Nations (UN) treaty monitoring bodies, special rapporteurs and other bodies, the evidence and public statements made by Israeli military and political authorities continue to endorse, if not step up the pace of these killings. Therefore, it is important that no room is left for the presumption that these actions are condoned by the international community. In this regard, Al-Haq fears that International inaction vis—vis this policy is perceived by Israeli authorities as a carte blanche for them to continue with such policies, in contravention of fundamental human rights.

In the past, Al-Haq has warned repeatedly of the existence of a deliberate and consistent policy of such killings on behalf of Israeli political and military command structure. In a letter to the Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions, Al-Haq relayed in June 2004 its rising concern over such killings, and urged her to undertake a mission in order to adequately investigate these systematic violations.

Today, Al-Haq is left wondering where the international communitys threshold lies, before it seeks to ensure Israels respect for its international legal obligations, and calls upon: The Special Rapporteur to urgently request a mission to the OPT in exercise of her mandate in a serious effort to pressure Israel to end these violations; the High Contracting Parties to the Four Geneva Conventions to ensure respect for international law and prevent the reoccurrence of such killings; and the UN General Assembly to convene a special session to respond to the grave consequences of Israels deliberate methods of targeted assassinations against Palestinians.

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