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UN rights expert says Israel must be held to account for Gaza crimes

March 6, 2019 at 10:53 am

An injured Palestinian is being carried away after Israeli forces attacked Palestinians during the ‘Great March of Return’ in Gaza on 18 January 2019 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

A senior United Nations human rights official has urged the international community to hold Israel to account for violations of international law in the occupied Gaza Strip.

Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, made the remarks yesterday in response to the publication of a report by the UN Commission of Inquiry into the Great Return March protests.

The inquiry “found reasonable grounds to believe that, in all but two of the 189 fatalities investigated, the use of live ammunition by Israeli security forces against demonstrators was unlawful,” Lynk stated.

“Accordingly, I support the Commission’s call for accountability with respect to those who used lethal fire unlawfully, and for those who drafted and approved the rules of engagement which permitted this illegal use of lethal fire.”

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The Special Rapporteur also noted that Israeli forces have continued to deploy lethal violence against protesters in 2019 to date, with a further five children killed in the past two months.

According to the UN press release, “Lynk reiterated that international human rights instruments pertaining to law enforcement provide that firearms may only be used against persons if there is an imminent threat to life or risk of serious injury.”

“He added that, in the context of an occupation, the killings at the Gaza fence resulting from the unlawful use of force might well constitute wilful killings of the protected population, which constitute a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and potentially a war crime under the Rome Statute.”

“We must ensure legal accountability and end impunity for the excessive use of force against largely peaceful Palestinian demonstrators, and the resulting arbitrary deprivation of life,” said the Special Rapporteur.

“This is a grave violation of their right to life and it abrogates their guaranteed freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association.”

READ: Israel should face justice for unlawful Gaza protest killings