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Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
Report of the Special Rapporteur, Philip Alston
Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received* **
* The present document is being circulated as received, in the languages of submission only, as it greatly exceeds the word limitations currently imposed by the relevant General Assembly resolutions.
** The report was submitted late in order to reflect the most recent information.
II. TABULATION OF COMMUNICATIONS AND REPLIES
Attacks or killings (1)
No response (recent communication) (1)
Subject(s) of appeal: 13 males (members of ethnic minority)
Character of reply: Cooperative but incomplete response
Observations of the Special Rapporteur
The Special Rapporteur appreciates the information provided by the Government of Israel. The SR regrets that this information is responsive to only one of the five questions posed but appreciates the Government’s commitment to transmit the results of the appeal from the decision not to prosecute any of the implicated police officers.
Allegation letter sent on 27 September 2005
Allegation letter sent regarding the recent decision by your Ministry of Justice to close all investigations into the killing of 13 men by police forces during riots in October 2000.
In this respect, I would like to recall that at the outbreak of these disturbances, on 3 October 2000, my predecessor as Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions addressed an urgent appeal to your Excellency’s Government, urging your Government “to ensure that government forces are immediately ordered to act with restraint and to respect international human rights standards when carrying out their duties” and reminding your Government that “under international human rights standards police and security forces may only resort to firearms and lethal force in extreme situations, when lives are in danger and other means prove ineffective”. Finally, the then Special Rapporteur urged that “[a]ll incidents of alleged killings by government forces must be investigated without delay and the persons responsible … be brought to justice”. In its reply dated 10 October 2000, your Excellency’s Government assured the then Special Rapporteur that “[u]tmost restraint exemplifies the conduct of the Israeli forces throughout these incidents, in conformity with international standards and even far beyond”.
As mentioned above, my purpose in writing to you today, however, is to bring to the attention of your Excellency’s Government concerns regarding the investigation of 13 instances of lethal police shooting that did occur during those days, and to receive information from the Government in this respect. On the basis of the information I have received, the relevant facts regarding investigations into the death of the 13 men may be summarised as follows:
On 2 October 2000, protests broke out in numerous locations in Galilee. These disturbances saw young men, Arab Israelis and Palestinians, hurling stones at the security forces. On several occasions, the police opened fire on the protestors, using both rubber bullets and live ammunition. The police killed 13 men, 12 Arab Israeli citizens and a Palestinian.
During the months from October 2000 to May 2001, the Police Investigations Department (PID) of the Ministry of Justice took some initial steps to investigate the deaths. Due also to the ongoing disturbances, the investigators did not go to the scene of several of the incidents before the evidence was destroyed, autopsies were carried out only in some of the cases, and many of the police officers involved in the clashes that had resulted in lethal shootings were not heard. This investigation came to a halt in May 2001, when the state prosecutor ordered the PID not to carry out a separate investigation during the hearings of the commission on inquiry that had in the meantime been set up by the Government.
On 8 November 2000, the Government had decided to appoint a commission of inquiry to investigate what occurred during the riots. The commission, headed by a member of the Supreme Court, justice Theodor Or, submitted its report in September 2003. It found that the police had repeatedly had recourse to excessive force in order to quell the riots. Among other findings, the commission concluded that the commander of the police's Northern District at the time and the former Amakim District police chief had issued directives to snipers to open fire on stone-throwing protesters in several instances. The commission also found that the Misgav police station commander could have prevented clashes with the rioters and that he used live fire without justification, causing the death of two civilians and the wounding of others. The commission recommended that the PID open criminal investigations into ten separate instances of shooting deaths during the riots.
After the publication of the commission report, the PID restarted its investigation. During this probe, hundreds of policemen and civilians who were present at the scene of the incidents were questioned. After close to two years of investigation, in September 2005 the PID has concluded that there is not sufficient evidence to indict anyone for the killings. In some of the cases identified as unjustified use of lethal force by the commission of inquiry, the PID concludes that in fact the use of lethal force was justified (e.g. on the ground of a different assessment of the risks faced by the police officers at the time of the shooting). In other instances, the PID concludes that the firing was illegal, but is unable to identify those responsible. The PID adduces numerous reasons for its inability to gather sufficient evidence to raise criminal charges, among them:
- Investigation teams did not reach the scenes soon enough after the incident and did not attempt to collect evidence shortly thereafter as the fierce violence during the riots would have endangered the investigators had they tried to do so.
- In some cases, investigators were unable to locate the police officers involved in the riots. In other instances, they were unable to determine which police officer was responsible for the gunfire that killed the rioters.
- The families of those killed did not cooperate with the investigation, in particular they did not agree to the PID’s requests (made at the end of the year 2003) to disinter the victims to allow an autopsy.
Israel: Targeted Killings in the West Bank
Subject(s) of appeal: 25 males
Character of reply: No response (recent communication)
The Special Rapporteur looks forward to receiving a response concerning these allegations.
Allegation letter sent on 28 November 2005
Since assuming this mandate, I have received numerous reports concerning the killing of suspected terrorists by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). In the annex to this letter you will find summaries of the information regarding ten such incidents, between 10 June 2004 and 25 January 2005. These summaries are based on affidavits signed by eye witnesses of the killings, as well as, in some cases, medical records of the deceased.
The eye witnesses and the organization presenting the affidavits to me allege that in all cases fire was opened by the Israeli forces without any warning and without any threat against them by the persons fired at. The description of the incidents and of the injuries suffered by the victims strongly suggests that the lethal outcome of the use of force was intended in all cases. In some of the cases, your Excellency’s Government appears to claim that there was in fact an armed confrontation, while in others the source’s version appears to be undisputed in this respect. The members of the Israeli special forces carrying out the killings were dressed in civilian clothes and traveling on civilian vehicles, while military vehicles mostly appeared on the scene once the killing had been completed. The victims of the killings described in the annex include both persons sought by the Israeli security forces because of a suspicion that they were engaged in terrorist acts and persons who would not appear to have been under such suspicion. Nonetheless, most of the persons falling in the latter group appear to have been killed intentionally, and not as unintended casualties.
The concern raised by the summarised reports (as well as in numerous other recent reports of analogous incidents) is heightened by information according to which your Excellency’s Government, in the persons of the Prime Minister and the IDF Chief of Staff, recently (on 8 November 2005) confirmed its intention to continue carrying out such killings.
In drawing the attention of your Excellency’s Government to this information and seeking clarification thereof, I am aware of the stance taken by your Government in proceedings in domestic and international fora with regard to targeted killings. I would therefore take your Government’s statement to the Human Rights Committee of 25 July 2003 on this matter (CCPR/C/SR.2118, at para. 40) as basis for my queries.
1. As a preliminary matter, please state whether the attached summaries are accurate. If not so, please refer to the results of any investigation disproving their accuracy.
2. Your Excellency’s Government insisted before the Human Rights Committe that the legal basis for such operations was to be found in the laws on armed conflict. It also stated that “Israel operate[s] only against legitimate targets, using legitimate methods of warfare while abiding by the rule of proportionality in accordance with international law.” Please describe which rules of international humanitarian law, i.e. which treaties or rules of customary law, are taken as guidance to define legitimate targets and legitimate methods of warfare (inter alia concerning the identification of Israeli combatants as such), as well as to assess the proportionality of attacks. Please explain on what basis the applicability of human rights law, in particular Article 6 of the ICCPR, is ruled out.
3. Your Excellency’s Government stated that “[e]ven persons known to be terrorists were legitimate targets only if there was reliable evidence linking them directly to a hostile act. … [Israel’s] security forces were instructed by the Attorney-General, however, to attack unlawful combatants only when there was an urgent military necessity and when no less harmful alternative was available to avert the danger posed by the terrorists.“ Please describe the decision-making process and the procedural safeguards in place to ensure that the principles stated by your Government as a policy find application in each individual case. Your Excellency’s Government stated that “[i]t would, of course, be preferable to arrest such persons [known to be terrorists], but in areas like the Gaza Strip, over which Israel had no control, his Government did not have that option.” Please elaborate on why, in the cases summarized in the annex, arresting the suspected terrorists was not an option, considering that in several of the incidents your Government did in fact arrest several persons after killing others (e.g. on 8 August 2004 in Palestine Street, Jericho).
4. Your Excellency’s Government stated that “under the rule of proportionality, which formed part of the laws of armed conflict and was integral to Israel’s accepted values, [the security forces] were instructed to carry out such attacks only if they did not cause disproportionate harm to civilians. Consequently, at all stages of intelligence-gathering, operational planning and attacks on unlawful combatants, they always did their utmost to avoid injuring innocent persons.” In at least one incident (not among those summarised in the annex), an inquiry of your Government found “shortcomings in the information available, and the evaluation of that information, concerning the presence of innocent civilians”. (I refer to the 2 August 2002 communication of the IDF spokesperson regarding the findings of the inquiry into the death of Salah Shehadeh). These findings of an inquiry by the IDF and the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) refer to an incident on 22 July 2002 in which 16 persons, including nine children, were killed in addition to the targeted terrorism suspect when an IDF plane dropped a one ton bomb on a house in a densely populated area of Gaza. Please explain whether the findings of the inquiry were followed by any disciplinary or criminal proceedings, and, if not so, the reasons therefore. Please explain whether IDF inquiries were initiated into any other targeted killing cases with the aim to assess the proportionality of the force used, and what the outcome was.
Without prejudging your Government’s replies to my queries, I would reiterate my concern that empowering Governments to identify and kill “known terrorists” places no verifiable obligation upon them to demonstrate in any way that those against whom lethal force is used are indeed terrorists, or to demonstrate that every other alternative has been exhausted. (See E/CN.4/2005/7, at par. 41). In expressing this concern, I am cognizant of the fact that in the course of the last five years hundreds of Israeli civilians have been killed in attacks carried out by terrorists using the Gaza strip and the West Bank as basis. I wish to stress that I fully acknowledge the responsibility of your Excellency’s Government to protect its citizens against such attacks. Efforts to eradicate terrorism must, however, be undertaken within a framework clearly governed by international human rights law as well as by international humanitarian law.
1) 10 June 2004, 'Ein Nina, Jenin Governorate
Mr. Ma’moun Yousef Abu-al-Hasan was a militant of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and a fugitive wanted by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). On 10 June 2004, at around 1:30 a.m. he entered the house of his father, Mr. Husein Yousef Abu-al-Hasan, located in 'Ein-Nina of Jenin City. At 2 a.m. members of the IDF, who apparently had laid siege to the location, knocked at the door of the home and demanded that it be opened. Ma’moun Abu-al-Hasan shouted that he was coming to open the door, but instead attempted to escape from the back door of the house and managed to climb over a wall into the garden of the neighbouring house. There, however, he was spotted by IDF soldiers, who without warning opened fire and hit him with four bullets in the back of the head, top of the back and the feet (according to the medical report issued by Jenin Governmental Hospital). Ma’moun Abu-al-Hasan was not armed. The IDF acknowledged responsibility for the killing of Ma’moun Abu-al-Hasan.
2) 14 June 2004, Balata Refugee Camp
On 14 June 2004, at 9:40 p.m., Mr. 'Awad Abu-Zeid was driving a taxi on the main street in the north part of Balata Refugee Camp in the Nablus Governorate, opposite Jacob’s Well, with Messrs. Khalil 'Araysha and Muhammad Safwat as passengers. An IDF Apache helicopter fired two rockets at the car, one of them hitting the target. Mr. 'Araysha and 'Awad died on the spot, their bodies incinerated and Mr. 'Araysha’s leg and hand amputated. Mr. Safwat sustained minor injuries and burns. Reportedly Mr. 'Araysha had recently become a leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Mr. Abu-Zeid reportedly was his right hand man and often drove him in his taxi. The IDF acknowledged responsibility for the attack.
3) 25 July 2005, Toulkarem
On 25 July 2004, at 7:00 pm, a white Volkswagen bus carrying a yellow (Israeli) registration plate entered a Southern neighbourhood of Toulkarem, where a group of young Palestinian men, some of them wanted by the IDF, was standing opposite of the Abu Nidal Restaurant for Popular Foods. When the van was at a distance of five metres from the young men it stopped and five men got out of the car. They were wearing civilian clothing and carrying machine guns. The five men immediately opened heavy fire towards six of the Palestinian men, aiming at the heads and abdomen and killing them on the spot. The six victims were:
1. Mr. Hani Yousef Muhammad 'Weida, a militant of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades wanted by the IDF. He was armed at the time of the incident.
2. Mr. 'Abd-al-Rahman Hasan Mustafa Shadid, a militant of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades wanted by the IDF. He was armed at the time of the incident.
3. Mr. Mahdi Rateb Na'im Tanbouz, a militant of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades wanted by the IDF. He was armed at the time of the incident.
4. Mr. Said Jamal Nasser. It is not clear whether he was a militant of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as well, but he was not a fugitive (he used to sleep at home) and did not carry weapons.
5. Mr. Muhammad 'Adnan Shantir, a bystander who was not a member of any militant group and not wanted by the IDF.
6. Mr. Ahmad Nabil Barouq, a bystander who was not a member of any militant group and not wanted by the IDF.
The shooting also injured some passers-by, including Messrs. Muhammad 'Adnan Fathi Samaha, Khalil Zidan, and Ibrahim al-Jayyousi. Immediately after the shooting IDF support units arrived to the scene and stayed for at least an hour. Muhammad 'Adnan Fathi Samaha was arrested after the shooting and questioned about the identity of the targeted men. Thereafter he received medical treatment in an Israeli hospital.
The IDF acknowledged carrying out the operation, claiming that all the six men killed were militants of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
4) 8 August 2004, Palestine Street, Jericho
On 8 August 2004, at about 9:30 pm, a number of young men from Ramallah living in Jericho had gathered in front of the Sara Net Café located on Palestine Street behind the Jericho football stadium. Several of the young men were wanted by the IDF, among them Mr. 'Amer 'Aydiyya, an activist of the al-Aqsa Martyres Brigades from the Al-Am'ari Refugee Camp, south of Ramallah, his brother Mr. Jaber 'Aydiyya, Mr. Hatem Abu-Halima from Ramallah, and Mr. Hamza Muhammad 'Abdallah al-Sheikh. At about 9:45 p.m., a white Volkswagen Caravelle stopped nearby. Without any notice or warning, the car’s doors opened and a number of men in civilian dress got out of the car, aimed their automatic guns at the group of young men and without any warning fired at them (aiming at Mr. 'Amer 'Aydiyya) with live ammunition. Mr. 'Amer 'Aydiyya received several bullets in the chest and abdomen and died on the spot, while others were wounded, Mr. Hatem Abu-Halima and Mr. Jaber 'Aydiyya seriously. Immediately thereafter, Israeli soldiers came to the scene. They hand-cuffed those who had not been wounded, forced them to lie down on the ground, and subsequently led them inside the Net Café. Those wounded remained outside and received first-aid from the Israeli soldiers. After half an hour, the Israeli soldiers blindfolded the men, both those wounded and those unwounded, and took them in their cars to Benjamin Detention Camp in Bitouniya, northwest Ramallah. Mr. Hamza Muhammad 'Abdallah al-Sheikh was released after 13 days of detention. Mr. Jaber 'Aydiyya was transferred to Hadassa Hospital in East Jerusalem and then released (he continued his medical treatment at al-Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Ramallah).
5) 13 September 2004, Jenin, on the Jenin-Nablus road
On 13 September 2004 at 5:15 p.m., Mr. Mahmoud Asa’d Abu-Khalifa (22 years), Mr. Yamen Feisal Ayyoub (18 years), and Mr. Amjad Husni Ayyoub (23 years), three activists of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades wanted by the IDF, were travelling in a civilian Mazda car near the Jenin Municipality on Jenin-Nablus road when a powerful explosion completely burned and destroyed the car. The three passengers were killed, their bodies dismembered and body parts strewn all over the site of the incident. The Israeli army admitted its responsibility for the operation through the Yediot Ahranot website in Arabic (ArabNet), attributing the explosion to an air-to-ground rocket fired on the car from a helicopter. The families of the victims and other residents of Jenin doubt the veracity of this account. They point out that there was no helicopter in the sky above Jenin at the relevant time that day. These persons rather believe that a bomb had been planted on the car and was set off by a reconnaissance plane of the Israeli armed forces that was soaring in the sky above Jenin that day.
6) 15 September 2004, Jenin industrial area
On 15 September 2004, at around 12:30 pm, an IDF Special Squad entered the industrial area of Jenin in two cars which bore no signs identifying them as being in use of Israeli security forces. The two cars parked in front of a car repair shop owned by Messrs. Fawwaz Zakarna and Abu Al-Abed Saba’na. Mr. Fawwaz Zakarna, Mr. Fadi Fakhri Zakarna, an activist of the Islamic Jihad Movement wanted by the Israeli army, and other young men were standing in front of the car repair shop. Fadi Zakarna was carrying a weapon. Without prior notice or warning, approximately eight persons in civilian clothes, two of them wearing masks covering their faces, got out the two cars and opened fire on the young men standing in front of the car repair shop with guns known “M-16 short”. Firing continued for five to seven minutes, mostly directed at the group of young men, but also in other directions. Fadi Fakhri Zakarna received 20 bullets in his head, chest and different parts of his body. Fawwaz Fakhri Zakarna, neither an activist nor wanted, was killed with seven bullets in the chest and right foot. Mr. Mu'ath Muhammad Qatit, known for trading in stolen cars, neither an activist nor wanted, was killed inside Mr. Fawwaz’s shop by four bullets in the chest. Mr. Shuja’ Nathmi, an activist in Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades wanted by the Israeli army, escaped from the place of the incident with two members of the special forces running after him and firing at him. Three members of the Special Squad dragged Mr. Ibrahim 'Ata Mahmoud (a/k/a) Ibrahim “al-Sirisi”), who was neither an activist nor wanted by the IDF, into the car repair shop run by 'Arafat al-Sa'di, threw him on the ground, and opened fire on him from a distance of less than two metres. Three or four bullets hit his head and chest. After firing stopped, the IDF arrived at the scene to protect the members of the special forces, which departed from the area. The IDF left ten minutes later. According to an Israeli radio broadcast in Arabic, the Special Squad was fired at during the liquidation of a terrorist in Jenin and had to respond, resulting in the killing of three Palestinian young men.
7) 28 October 2004, Kufr-Saba neighborhood, Qalqiliya
Mr. Ibrahim Muhammad Fayed (a/k/a "Sheikh Ibrahim"), aged 48, was wanted by the Israeli security forces, who broke into his family’s home several times in an attempt to find him. Israeli security forces had also on several occasions distributed statements to the citizenry warning against offering shelter to and otherwise assisting Sheikh Ibrahim. On 28 October 2004, at around 7.20 p.m., Sheikh Ibrahim was having coffee with a friend nearby his home in the Kufr-Saba quarter in Qalqiliya, when he was shot at from a white Ford car standing at about 70 metres distance. Apparently, the weapon used was a silenced pistol with a laser aiming device. The gun shots were fired without any warning and the bystanders realised that Sheikh Ibrahim had been shot by seeing him fall over backwards. Sheikh Ibrahim’s friend, who was armed, returned the fire when he realised what was happening, and the white car left. Sheikh Ibrahim was immediately taken to the Emergency Hospital in Qalqiliya city, where he died of the wounds in the chest and the head at around 8 p.m. the same evening.
8) 1 November 2004, al-Yasmina Quarter in the Old City of Nablus, Nablus Governorate
On 1 November 2004, around 9 p.m., Mr. Majdi Mir'i and Mr. Fadi Sarwan were talking in front of Mr. Sarwan’s home in the al-Yasmina Quarter in the Old City of Nablus. Mr. Majdi Mir'i had been wanted by the Israeli security forces for two years and had escaped an assassination attempt on 15 September 2004. Mr. Fadi Sarwan had received a call on his cellular from an Israeli officer calling himself “Ghazal” a week before the present incident, telling him that he would soon be assassinated. At ten to fifteen metres from them another group of several young men was standing, among them Mr. Amjad Ghafri and Mr. Karim Ghazi 'Abd-al-Rahman Abu-'Isa. Three persons arrived on the scene, two of them in male civilian dress, the third dressed like a woman. Once they were close to the two groups of men, these three persons took off some of the clothes they were wearing, revealing that they were in fact three men armed with guns. Without any previous questions or warning, they opened fire on Mr. Mir'i and Mr. Sarwan, as well as on the other group of men.
Mr. Sarwan first fell to the ground. The men continued to shoot at him also when he was lying on the ground. Mr. Mir’i tried to escape, but interrupted his flight and lifted his hands after a few metres when IDF soldiers cut his way. He was approached my one of the men in civilian clothes who shot at him from a close range, and continued to fire at him also after he had fallen to the ground. Mr. Sarwan and Mr. Mir’i died on the spot of the wounds suffered. Karim Abu-'Isa was injured, while Amjad Ghafri was arrested.
9) 7 November 2004, Jenin-Nablus Road outside Jenin
On 7 November 2004 around 5:45 p.m., the following four men wanted by the Israeli security forces were killed:
1. Mr. Amin Jamal Muhammad Husein, an activist with the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
2. Mr. Fadi Khader Tawfiq Ighbariyya, an activist with Saraya al-Quds of the Islamic Jihad.
3. Mr. Muhammad Khaled Ahmad Masharqa, an activist with the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
4. Mr. Mahmoud Fahmi Salah-al-Din, an activist with al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
The four Palestinian men where driving in a black jeep. They had filled the car at the 'Abd-al-'Afou Gas Station located on the Jenin-Nablus Road to the south towards Jenin City. As the jeep was about to take the road again, a grey Volkswagen, which had appeared at high speed, came to stop immediately in front of it, at a distance not exceeding a metre and a half. Without prior notice or warning, the persons in that bus opened heavy fire towards the jeep from a distance not exceeding one metre from the front side. Then five men in blue jeans, shouting in Hebrew, got out of the Volkswagen bus and continued to fire at the jeep The fire continued for around one minute and was directed at the upper part of the Palestinian men’s bodies. All four men sustained wounds in their heads and died on the spot. Subsequent examination of the jeep revealed that hundreds of bullets had been fired at the jeep.
The special forces soldiers gathered the weapons of the four Palestinian men in the jeep, which they had not been able to use due to the unexpected and sudden nature of the attack. Ten minutes after the attack, IDF support units arrived in eight to ten military jeeps and provided protection for the departure of the special forces in the Volkswagen bus. After the departure of the Israeli forces, the four Palestinian men were carried in Red Crescent Society ambulances to the Jenin Governmental Hospital, where their death was confirmed.
10) 26 January 2005, Qalqiliya
On 26 January 2005, around 3 p.m., Messrs. Maher Harb and Muhammad Khamis, two men wanted by the Israeli security forces because of their affiliation with the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and Mr. Yihiya Nazzal were slowly driving in a private car through the central part of the Kufr Saba Quarter in Qalqiliya. Their car was surrounded by three members of Israeli security forces in civilian clothes. These three men started firing into the car with M-16 guns while shouting, in both Hebrew and Arabic, “Stop the car and bring the weapons”. One member of the security forces shot Mr. Harb in the neck from a distance of approximately two meters, possibly killing him immediately. Although the car slowed down as a result of the driver losing control, the three special forces soldiers continued to shoot at the passengers of the car. Eventually, the car crashed into a tree. The soldier on the right side of the car opened one of the car doors and fired two bullets at the driver and the person sitting next to him (Mr. Khamis). The third soldier shot Mr. Nazzal in the leg from a distance of about a metre and a half. Then the soldiers pulled out the driver, the man in the passenger seat, and the third man who was sitting in the back of the car, and dragged them for a distance of 12 metres inside a shop. The soldiers were then attacked by persons throwing stones at them, but kept the attackers at bay by firing their weapons (apparently without any casualties). After few minutes, several Israeli patrol cars arrived at the scene. Mr. Harb, Mr. Khamis and Mr. Nazzal were put into patrol cars and driven to an Israeli Liaison Office on the eastern side of Qalqiliya. There, a doctor examined them and established that Mr. Harb was dead. Mr. Muhammad Khamis had sustained serious injuries, and Mr. Yihiya Nazzal medium injuries. Mr. Khamis and Mr. Nazzal were taken by ambulance to the Belinson Hospital in Israel. Mr. Nazzal was transferred to the Emergency Hospital in Qalqiliya after five days.
Subject(s) of appeal: General
Character of reply: No response
The Special Rapporteur regrets that the Palestinian Authority has failed to cooperate with the mandate he has been given by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
Urgent appeal sent on 28 February 2005
On 17 February 2005, the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, ratified several death sentences of Palestinians found guilty of "collaborating" with Israel or of other criminal charges. Fears have been expressed that these people could be at risk of imminent execution. It is my understanding that the Palestinian Penal Code applying in the West Bank enables imposition of capital punishment for seventeen offenses, while in the Gaza Strip, fifteen offenses warrant the death penalty. Reports indicate that both penal laws are implemented by ordinary civil courts. The Palestinian Authority also reportedly imposes the death penalty pursuant to the PLO Revolutionary Penal Code, of 1979, which provides for capital punishment for forty-two offenses and is applied by military courts and state security courts operated by the Palestinian Authority. Reports indicate that these special courts are in fact responsible for the vast majority of death sentences imposed by the Palestinian Authority. Concerns have been expressed that the number of offenses for which the death penalty may be imposed is extremely wide and thus inconsistent with the requirement that the list be limited to the internationally recognized category of the most serious crimes. Fears have been expressed that the above-mentioned persons were sentenced to death after trials that may have fallen short of international fair trial standards. Indeed, it is alleged that the trials before the special courts deny the accused the basic rules of due process. It has been suggested that the trials could in effect be characterized as “field trials” held before military judges often summarily and in which the defendants are not given any significant opportunity to present a defense. Moreover, the defendants are denied the right to appeal against their sentences to a higher court, in violation of international human rights standards. The death sentences are reportedly only subject to ratification by the President and may be carried out within hours or days of the trial. In view of what would appear to be several major flaws in the procedures followed I would respectfully urge your Excellency to stay the execution of all pending or future death penalty sentences, to review all previous cases resulting in death sentences and to release or retry those individuals found to have been unfairly convicted, taking all necessary measures to ensure that the trials comply with internationally recognised fair trial standards. I would greatly appreciate receiving any clarification on these trials, on the sentencing and the review process.