Professor Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, condemned Israel's excessive use of force towards largely unarmed demonstrators at the Gaza fence on Monday, which has left 61 Palestinians dead, and almost 2,800 wounded. He expressed grave fears this figure could rise sharply in coming days unless Israeli authorities uphold their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
"This blatant excessive use of force by Israel – an eye for an eyelash – must end, and there must be true accountability for those in military and political command who have ordered or allowed this force to be once again employed at the Gaza fence," he said.
"I must reiterate that international human rights law sets strict prohibitions on the use of force by law enforcement officials. Lethal force against demonstrators is prohibited unless strictly unavoidable in the case of an imminent threat to life or threat of serious injury. The killing of demonstrators in violation of these rules, and within the context of occupation, may amount to willful killing, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as a war crime."
The Rapporteur also expressed deep concern at the apparent disregard by Israeli forces for the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. "These fundamental rights belong to all peoples, and they must be permitted to exercise them within reasonable bounds. There appears to be no persuasive evidence that the use of flammable kites, throwing of stones or Molotov cocktails, or other actions reportedly taken by a small number of the demonstrators presented a deadly threat that justified the force used by the Israeli military."
Tens of thousands of Gazans have gathered along the fence and continue to demonstrate to protest the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, as well as to continue to call for the right to return to their homes, and to demand an end to the unliveable humanitarian situation in Gaza brought on by Israel's 11-year blockade. The latest reports say that 112 Palestinians have been killed and more than 12,000 wounded since the demonstrations began on 30 March.
Lynk repeated his calls to the international community, through the United Nations, to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into these killings, as well as those that have occurred in the context of these demonstrations since 30 March. "Impunity for these actions is not an option. Justice for the victims must become a priority for the international community," he said.
Watch: Lynk's most recent statement to the UN