17 January 2009
As a Palestinian organisation dedicated to the protection and promotion of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Al-Haq is gravely concerned with what appears to be
the wilful killing of a Palestinian farmer while he was under the control of Israeli soldiers in Hebron. This is only the latest in a long line of such illegal killings committed by Israeli occupying forces in the OPT (consisting of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip), and a violent reminder that even as Israel engages in horrific and illegal attacks against the Gaza Strip, its oppressive occupation policies continue to undermine the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank.
On Tuesday 13 January 2009, Yaser Saqr Isma’il Tmeizi, a 35-year-old Palestinian man, and his six-year-old son, were working on their land in the village of Ithna, in West Hebron. Mr. Tmeizi had a permit to access the Israeli-facing side of the Annexation Wall, and it was believed that he was not ‘wanted’ by the Israelis. According to two eyewitnesses who were grazing cattle in an adjacent field, he and his son were approximately 500 metres east of the Wall, which in this area consists of barbed wire fencing and cuts through the village. At approximately 11:00 am, four Israeli soldiers entered onto Tmeizi’s land through a nearby gate in the Wall. They approached Tmeizi and his son and told his son to leave, which he did. One of the soldiers kicked Tmeizi, and a skirmish broke out between the two of them. Immediately, however, the soldiers subdued Tmeizi, tying his hands behind his back before lying him down on his back. Two of the soldiers then sat on his stomach while the other two stood watch.
At 12:00 pm, an Israeli military jeep entered through the same gate, stopping near where Tmeizi was being held by the soldiers. Four more soldiers exited the jeep and joined the others. After approximately 15 minutes, Tmeizi, who had been handcuffed and blindfolded, was picked up and thrown into the back of the jeep. The jeep then moved toward the gate, with four soldiers inside and the other four walking behind it.
The eyewitnesses were unable to see what happened at the gate itself, but at approximately 1:30 pm, they saw an Israeli Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) going towards the gate on the Israeli-facing side of the Wall. Ten minutes later, and still on the Israeli-facing side of the Wall, the APC and the jeep drove quickly toward Tarqoumya, the main terminal in the Wall in West Hebron.
At approximately 3:00 pm, according to its workers, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society was summoned to Tarqoumya by Israeli soldiers, who told them to come pick up Tmeizi, who was still in their custody. He had been shot, and was dying from a gunshot wound. Although a full medical report and autopsy are still pending, according to Red Crescent Society workers and photos taken at the time, the bullet had entered just above his belly button and he had an exit wound in his buttocks, indicating that he had been shot at point blank range, most likely while sitting down, by someone above him aiming a gun down at his torso. At Tarqoumya, another eyewitness overheard the Israeli captain asking his soldiers why they shot the man and then saw him take the soldiers’ guns away from them.
By the time they arrived at the hospital, Tmeizi had died.
This wilful killing of Yaser Saqr Isma’il Tmeizi, while he was in the custody and under direct control of Israeli soldiers, violates a number of fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, to which Israel is bound pursuant to its occupation of the Palestinian territory. Under Article 4(1) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Palestinians in the OPT are regarded as protected persons. Protected persons enjoy comprehensive legal protection of their lives under Article 46 of the Hague Regulations of 1907 and Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, both of which reflect customary international law.
Protected persons only lose their immunity and become a legitimate target for attack while they are taking a direct part in hostilities. Clearly this was not the case in this example. Tmeizi was farming before he was detained, and was then handcuffed, blindfolded and under the control of at least eight soldiers during his detention.
This summary execution also violates the fundamental provision of international human rights law, namely the right to life that is enshrined in both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Wilful killings of protected persons are a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, entailing the individual criminal responsibility of those who carry them out. Given the details of this incident, Al-Haq has strong reasons to believe that this is a case of wilful killing and will therefore demand that the Israeli Military Advocate General (JAG) undertake an immediate police investigation into the incident. Additionally, Al-Haq urges all High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions that have diplomatic relations with Israel to inquire both about this specific incident and about the impunity that individuals that have committed similar crimes have enjoyed heretofore.