Paris 29 August 2002
Excessive, imprecise Israeli gunfire kills Palestinian journalist
Reporters Without Borders and Damocles Network, an organisation which combats impunity, today released the report of their joint on-site investigation into the fatal bullet injury sustained by Palestinian press photographer Imad Abu Zahra on 11 July 2002 in Jenin, in the Occupied Territories. Abu Zahra was hit in the leg and died the following day as a result of his injury. The report’s findings are as follows:
The curfew had been lifted that day in Jenin, and the streets were calm. The gunfire that hit Abu Zahra was Israeli, and had not been preceded by any warning. While Abu Zahra was not wearing anything that identified him as a journalist, there was another journalist beside him who was wearing a bulletproof vest marked “Press”. These two civilians in no way posed any threat to the Israeli tanks. Contrary to earlier promises, the Israeli army’s enquiry was either non-existent or very slipshod.
On the basis of these findings, Reporters Without Borders and Damocles Network have made several recommendations to the Israeli authorities. They call on the army to conduct a thorough enquiry to establish responsibility in this incident and to adopt appropriate sanctions against the soldiers, who were too quick to resort to gunfire. Reporters Without Borders and Damocles Network remind the Israeli authorities that they must “respect international humanitarian law concerning the conduct of hostilities, which entails distinguishing military targets from civilians, whatever the circumstances”.
The evidence gathered in the course of the enquiry in Jenin from 19 to 25 July includes a video recording made during the incident, the testimonies of a total of 10 Jenin inhabitants and foreigners who were present, and the Israeli army’s official reaction.
Abu Zahra’s death took place against a background of deteriorating press freedom in Israel and the Palestinian territories, due especially to the worsening security conditions in which journalists operate, above all since operation “Rampart” began on 29 March. Since the start of the second Intifada in September 2000, two journalists have been killed and 46 have been injured by gunfire in the Occupied Territories.
The full report is available in French and English on the www.rsf.org.
Created by Reporters Without Borders, the Damocles Network operates at various levels to end the impunity enjoyed by so many of the killers and torturers of journalists.
For further information, contact Virginie Locussol at RSF, rue Geoffroy Marie, Paris 75009, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 84, fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51, e-mail: email@example.com, Internet: http://www.rsf.fr