Since 30 March, Israeli soldiers have killed 32 Palestinian protesters with live fire, including a journalist and four children; 94 percent of casualties were shot in head, neck, face, chest, stomach, or back.
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights filed a petition with the Israeli Supreme Court yesterday 23 April 2018, demanding that it order the Israeli military to stop using snipers and live ammunition in order to disperse Palestinian protests in the Gaza Strip.
Since 30 March 2018, Israeli soldiers have killed 32 Palestinian protesters with live ammunition, amongst them a journalist and four minors. Fifty-six percent of the 2,882 people wounded during the protests – 1,607 people – were hit by live ammunition fired by Israeli troops. 523 children and 97 women were among the wounded.
Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara argued in the petition that the Israeli military practices constitute violations of both international law as well as Israeli law:
The Israeli military's "open-fire policy against protesters in Gaza is patently illegal… This policy perceives the [Palestinian] human body as an expendable, worthless object." As a result of this policy, 94 percent of the fatally wounded were shot in the upper body (head, neck, face, chest, stomach, and back); 53 percent were shot in the head, face, and neck; 22 percent were shot in the stomach; 19 percent were shot in the chest and back; and six percent were shot in the legs and thighs.
Adalah and Al Mezan stressed in the petition that, contrary to the claims of the Israeli military and government, the Gaza protesters are unarmed, civilian demonstrators, who never reached the point – at any stage – of endangering anyone's life during demonstrations. The protest march's general principles document, which was included in the petition, makes clear that the protests are popular, non-violent, and unarmed.
Likewise, Gaza civil society organizers informed both the United Nations and the media of the protest's goals and civilian nature.
The petition emphasizes the absolute ban on opening fire on demonstrators with live ammunition and noted that the norms applicable to confronting civilian demonstrations are based in international law governing "law enforcement and order." These same norms have also been adopted into Israeli law, including via the Or Commission Report published in 2003.
"These universal norms apply equally and without discrimination to citizens and non-citizens alike, regardless of the content of the protest, their slogans, their location, their organizational affiliation, and the ethnic and national affiliation of the participants."
Nevertheless, the petition stresses, the Israeli military employed social media channels in advance of the protests to explicitly threaten Gaza residents that it would "fire live ammunition with a premeditated intent to kill or wound participants in an effort to deter future political protest."
The petition included 12 video clips documenting Israeli soldiers shooting unarmed protesters – including women and children – who did not endanger any lives.
Also included in the petition was testimony from wounded survivors also hit by live ammunition during the protests.
"Testimony and video documentation reveals a chilling picture of live ammunition fired routinely and in large quantities at protesters who posed no threat or danger. Videos and first-person testimonies also reveal a horrifying trend of shooting at specific demonstrators in order to kill or harm them."
Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara contended in the petition:
"This policy violates the most important of constitutional rights: the right to life and bodily integrity. It does not meet the test of immediate necessity." Even in such a situation of immediate necessity, the military must initially employ non-violent means. "The shootings are carried out in order to deter and frighten. The testimonies and video clips clearly show that the shooting of live fire at the demonstrators was carried out in order to harm life or bodily integrity.”
Al Mezan and Adalah demand that the Supreme Court issue an injunction banning the use of live fire against protesters in Gaza or, alternatively, schedule an urgent hearing prior to this Friday's (27 April) expected protests.
Note: Four other human rights organizations (The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Yesh Din, Gisha, and HaMoked – Center for the Defense of the Individual) also filed a petition last week against the use of live fire on protesters in Gaza.
Immediately following the filing of the petition, the Supreme Court decided to order a hearing on both petitions next week (the week of 29 April). The court has not yet set a date.
Case Citation: HCJ 3250/18, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights v. Israeli military Chief of Staff (case pending)