Three Independent Experts of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights issued the following statement on Friday, 21 May:
“The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders, Hina Jilani; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Asma Jahangir; and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Ambeyi Ligabo, echo the profound concerns expressed by the Security Council of the United Nations in its resolution 1544 and by the acting High Commissioner for Human Rights about violence and loss of life during the peaceful demonstration in the Rafah refugee camp of the Gaza Strip on 19 May 2004. The demonstrators were denouncing human rights violations during a massive operation by Israeli forces that included the demolition of houses.
The Experts have received credible information that demonstrators were engaged in peaceful activities in exercise of their right to protest. Circumstances surrounding this most regrettable incident reported by independent sources indicate excessive use of force resulting in the loss of civilian lives, including that of children. The Experts of the Commission on Human Rights remain concerned regarding the safety of the civilian population and particularly the security of those engaged in peaceful activity for the promotion and protection of human rights.
The Experts urge the Israeli Government to fully respect the right to life, to freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly of the people of Rafah. No action derogatory to these rights of the civilian population is justified under any circumstance. The Experts urge the Israeli Government to comply with international human rights standards, in particular to enforce strict limits to the use of lethal force by security forces as stipulated in the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms. The Experts further urge the Government to fully respect its obligations under the Geneva Conventions.”