UNHRC investigator: Hebron killing has all the signs of an ‘extra judicial execution’

The shooting of a "neutralized" terrorist brought to a boil a debate in Israel over whether excessive force has been used against Palestinian assailants.

March 30, 2016 19:44
3 minute read.
IDF Hebron

IDF soldier who shot a neutralized Palestinian terrorist in Hebron being led into court, March 29, 2016. (photo credit: NOAM AMIR)

The Hebron shooting last week was an extrajudicial execution, charged United Nations special rapporteur Christof Heyns on Wednesday, as he weighed in on the controversial incident in which an IDF soldier shot a Palestinian assailant as he lay apparently wounded and immobile on the ground.

“Whatever legal regime one applies to the case, shooting someone who is no longer a threat is murder,” said Heynes, who is the UN Human Rights Council’s special investigator on the issue of extrajudicial executions.

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“There does not appear to be any provocation on the side of the gravely wounded man,” said Heyns, as he spoke of the shooting which was filmed by a volunteer for the Israeli NGO B’Tselem and widely circulated.

“The images shown carry all the signs of a clear case of an extrajudicial execution,” Heyns said.

A spokesman for the UN High Commission for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, also condemned the shooting.

It followed an earlier incident in which Palestinians Abdel Fattah al-Sharif and Ramzi al-Kasrawi, both 21, stabbed an Israeli soldier, moderately wounding him.

Nearby soldiers shot and killed Kasrawi and gravely wounded Sharif. Both of the Palestinian assailants lay on the Hebron road without receiving any immediate medical assistance. Even after the ambulances arrived, they were not immediately lifted into them. IDF soldiers, Jewish residents of Hebron and medics walked around them for a number of minutes as they lay there.

One of the soldiers then shot Sharif in the head, even though he was apparently unconscious and thus did not pose any further threat to those at the scene.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement on Wednesday, “What is particularly chilling is the way none of the 20 or so people at the scene, including medical personnel, appear to pay any attention to the wounded man while he was still alive, and also barely show any reaction in the immediate aftermath of his killing,” Colville said.

“We are concerned this killing may not be a lone incident: a disturbing number of Palestinians – reportedly more than 130 in all – have been killed in recent months during or after attacks on Israeli civilians and members of the security forces,” he said.

Those attacks have murdered 34 people, including two US citizens.

The Hebron incident, he said, was not the first one “captured on video that raises concerns of excessive use of force.” He called on the IDF to investigate all instance of excessive force against Palestinians.

The Palestinian attacks against Israelis are “reprehensible,” Colville said, but he urged the IDF to respond proportionally.

Colville said he was also concerned about the fate of the B’Tselem volunteer who caught the incident on film, since he and his family have been intimidated, and he has even been threatened with legal action. As a key eyewitness to the killing, he should be protected from any reprisals, Colville said.

The IDF soldier who shot Sharif was immediately arrested and remains in custody.

The incident sparked intense and wide debate. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have condemned the shooting. But other right wing politicians rallied to the soldier’s defense and held multiple small rallies in support of the soldier. Many believe he shot Sharif in self-defense thinking that he carried a bomb on his body that could be detonated. IDF Prosecutor Lt.-Col. Edoram Rigler has said that there was no need for the soldier to shoot Sharif.

Rigler added that the soldier was not an early responder and that by the time he arrived at the scene, the Palestinian had already been checked for the possibility of having explosives attached to himself, and that this had been ruled out.

Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.

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