Al-Haq 19 September 2003
Al-Haq has acquired new evidence regarding the shooting of Abd-al-Qader Du’ma at the ‘Anza checkpoint on September 2, 2003. The testimonies contradict the official Israeli account, almost uniformly cited in the press, that Du’ma threatened the soldiers with a weapon and was subsequently shot. The statements collected by Al-Haq fieldworkers indicate that Du’ma, who was wanted by the Israeli Authorities, was most likely unarmed and premeditatedly executed by the soldiers. Al-Haq demands an inquiry into the shooting, and calls upon the international community to intervene should Israel fail to investigate the matter.
The shooting comes amidst a wider policy of state-sanctioned, extra-judicial assassinations, all of which constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Convention and thus are actionable war crimes under the Statutes of the International Criminal Court. Israel must be held to account for these grave violations of international humanitarian law, and the international community must fulfill its obligation to halt such grave breaches of the Convention.
The Israeli Military Forces set up a checkpoint on the outskirts of ‘Anza village, near Jenin, on September 2nd. According to Israel’s official version of events, soldiers stopped an oncoming car in a routine inspection. One of the passengers, Abd-al-Qader Du’ma, 21, of the Nur Shams refugee camp, near Tulkarem, got out of the car, drew a gun, and pointed it at the soldiers, who subsequently shot and killed him. The other passenger in the vehicle was subsequently arrested. The car was then searched, according to the official Israeli account, and a knapsack was found containing a “Kalishnikov” rifle and several clips of ammunition. The Israeli Military claimed Du’ma was an Islamic Jihad operative, wanted for his role in dispatching a suicide bomber to Kfar Yavetz, near Tel Aviv, on July 7th of this year.
According to the Israeli Army’s previous version of events, released the day of the attack and cited in Yediot Aharonot, the soldiers stopped the vehicle at the roadblock and asked both passengers for their identification cards. At that point, Du’ma raised a pistol, pointed it at the soldiers, and was promptly shot, inside the car. No blood was found in the vehicle to corroborate this version of events.
According to witness statements gathered by Al-Haq, neither Du’ma nor the other man in the car were in possession of a weapon. To date, Israel has yet to produce or display any evidence of the alleged weapons.
Al-Haq has obtained testimonies from two witnesses, who were in a service taxi that pulled up to the checkpoint after Du’ma’s car. One of the witnesses is a 26 year-old teacher from Silet al-Dhaher village, near Jenin. The other witness is 37 and also a teacher, from the ‘Anza village; neither wishes to have his or her name released publicly.
According to their statements, there had never been a regular checkpoint at that location prior to the shooting. The one that was set up was manned by a special unit of the Armored Corps, which is not the normal patrol for a routine check-point. The second vehicle to pass through the newly established roadblock was the one carrying Du’ma. After his car, a white Korean Daewoo, was stopped, the soldiers ordered him and the other man to get out of it. They were then told to stand in the middle of the street, with their arms elevated in the air. The witnesses were looking on from their taxi at a distance of approximately 10-15 meters. The soldiers proceeded to raise up the shirts of the men and frisk them across their bodies.
Because of the direction their vehicle was facing, the witnesses could not see the soldiers. But the two men were clearly visible from their vantage point. The men did not appear to have any weapons on them. One of the witnesses did testify, however, that she saw what she thought was a black mobile telephone on the waist of Du’ma.
After about three to four minutes of searching, the passengers heard a gun shot, and saw one of the men fall to the ground. One of the soldiers stood over him and shot him repeatedly, at point blank range, in the chest and head. (According to an Al-Haq interview with medical sources at the Thabet Thabet hospital, the victim was hit by seven live bullets in the head, the chest, the abdomen and the legs, all fired at close range.) At that point, passengers in the taxi began shouting and crying, and their car sped off. It was only later that the passengers learned the man was wanted, and that the other one had been arrested.
A Policy of Extra-Judicial Killing
In Al-Haq’s opinion, Du’ma was premeditatedly assassinated by the Israeli Military Authorities; the road block was set-up (and manned by a special unit) for the purpose of executing him. Al-Haq’s documentation indicates that under the circumstances, the Israeli Military Authorities were in full control of the situation and could have arrested Du’ma if it was deemed necessary.
This brings to at least 185 the number of people Israel has killed in extra-judicial assassinations since the start of the second Intifada, with an additional 118 innocent bystanders killed in the process (of whom 37 have been children), according to Al-Haq and PCHR statistics. In the past three weeks alone, Israel has conducted eight assassination attempts, killing 19 and wounding dozens more.
Assassinations are extra-judicial killings and expressly prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Moreover, the intentional killing of a civilian that is not justified by military necessity constitutes willful killing and is a grave breach of the Convention, according to Article 147, and a de facto war crime under the Statutes of the International Criminal Court.
According to Article 146 of the Geneva Convention, all High Contracting Parties to the Convention (i.e., state signatories) are legally obligated to search out and bring to justice all persons or parties responsible for carrying out grave breaches. The international community also has a legal obligation under Article 1 of the Convention to “ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances.”