UN: Israeli culture of impunity boosted by Hebron shooter's lenient sentence

"We are deeply disturbed at the lenient sentence given by the Tel Aviv Military Court earlier this week to an Israeli soldier convicted of unlawfully killing a wounded Palestinian."

February 24, 2017 13:32
2 minute read.
Sgt. Elor Azaria arrives at a military court in Tel Aviv on January 24 for the beginning of hearings

Sgt. Elor Azaria arrives at a military court in Tel Aviv on January 24 for the beginning of hearings on his sentencing for manslaughter.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The United Nations warned on Friday that the 18-month prison term given to IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria this week “reinforced a culture of impunity.”

It issued a statement on the matter on Friday through the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jordanian Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.  

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"We are deeply disturbed at the lenient sentence given by the Tel Aviv Military Court earlier this week,” the spokesperson said.

In March 2016, Azaria had shot and killed Abed al Fatah al-Sharif, after the young Palestinian man had stabbed and lightly wounded a soldier in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood.
IDF soldier shoots dead subdued Palestinian terrorist in Hebron, part of Elor Azaria case

Sharif was one of two assailants involved in the incident. IDF soldiers at the scene killed one of the assailants and wounded Sharif, who then lay unarmed and immobilized on the ground when Azaria shot him.

The case has divided Israeli society, between those who liken Azaria’s actions to the killing of prisoners of war and those who believe Azaria acted in self-defense by killing a terrorist who was about to commit another act of violence.

The UN on Friday said it held that Azaria’s actions were an “apparent extrajudicial execution.”

Azaria, Zeid’s spokesperson said, was convicted of manslaughter which carries a maximum punishment of 20 years, yet he was given only an 18 month sentence.

“The prosecution and conviction are very welcome steps towards accountability, the punishment - which is excessively lenient - is difficult to reconcile with the intentional killing of an unarmed and prone individual,” the spokesperson said.

“It also stands in contrast to the sentences handed down by other Israeli courts for other less serious offenses, notably the sentencing of Palestinian children to more than three years' imprisonment for throwing stones at cars,” the spokesperson said.

“This case risks undermining confidence in the [Israeli] justice system and reinforcing the culture of impunity,” the spokesperson added.

The Hebron incident took place in the middle of a wave of Palestinian violence against Israelis that claimed the lives of 47 people and wounded 659 others, according to Foreign Ministry data.

In that period of violence that began in mid-September 2015 and through the current period, there have been 169 stabbing attacks, 104 attempted stabbings, 133 shootings, 55 vehicular (ramming) attacks and and one vehicle (bus) bombing,” the Foreign Ministry said.

In that same period Israeli killed some 200 Palestinians, many of whom were in the midst of executing attacks against Israelis.

Zeid’s spokesperson said that Azaria is the only member of the Israeli security forces to have been brought to trial for such a killing a Palestinian during that time.

In a statement on Twitter, Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz took issue with the UN statement. He said it was "just ugly" that Zeid was concerned about Azaria's lenient sentence, but not about the Syrian massacre of civilians or its execution of prisoners.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman posted on his Facebook page, that in the "twisted morality" of the Human Rights Council, the one bullet from Azaria's gun, was worse that the millions of rounds which have killed innocent people in Syria, Libya and Iraq. The statements shows that this is "an anti-Israel council and not a human rights council."

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