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Source: United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR)
15 December 2014


15 December 2014

GENEVA – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on 12 December urged the Israeli authorities to take urgent steps to halt continuing injuries and fatalities occurring during protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and to ensure meaningful investigations into all such incidents.

Issues relating to the Israeli security forces’ reaction to protests were highlighted by the death of Palestinian Minister Ziad Abu Ein after Israeli troops clashed with protesters on 10 December. Ziad Abu Ein died following an assault by an Israeli soldier during an olive-tree planting protest against illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank village of Turmus'aya. The protest coincided with a petition brought before the Israeli High Court demanding the dismantling of the nearby illegal settlement of Adei Ad, which has been involved in repeated acts of settler violence against Palestinians.

“The incidents that preceded the Minister’s death are disturbing and must be carefully investigated,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “I express my deepest condolences to Ziad Abu Ein’s family, and to the people of Palestine. It is a terrible and deeply tragic irony that he should die in this way after taking part in a peaceful protest against illegal settlements, centred around the planting of olive trees, on Human Rights Day.”

Also on 10 December, in Jalazone refugee camp in the West Bank, Israeli security forces reportedly shot a 14-year-old Palestinian boy in the head with live ammunition, leaving him seriously wounded, during protests triggered by the death of Ziad Abu Ein.

“The wounding of this child must also be properly investigated,” High Commissioner Zeid said, noting that reports of excessive use of force by Israeli security forces, which have resulted in the deaths, including of children, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, have risen sharply. This year alone, there have been at least 50 Palestinian fatalities in incidents involving Israeli security forces in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. This is almost double the 27 Palestinian fatalities that occurred in 2013 in similar circumstances.

“This continuous stream of fatal incidents underscores the need for effective accountability measures,” the High Commissioner said. “I note that the Israeli Defence Forces have said they have launched an investigation into the circumstances of Abu Ein’s death. I welcome that, but would like to stress that this investigation – and all others involving possible excessive use of force -- should be thorough, effective, independent and impartial. It must also be quick and utterly transparent if people are to have faith in its findings.

“Peaceful protest is a human right, and security forces must exercise appropriate restraint when policing protests in accordance with international standards,” High Commissioner Zeid added. “Because of the well-established illegal nature of the Israeli settlements in the West bank and East Jerusalem, such protests will inevitably continue.”

The settlements are in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which establishes that the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies. The Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and the International Court of Justice have all confirmed that the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements and other settlement-related activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are illegal under international law.

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