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Al-Haq Action Alert: Four Unarmed Teenagers Shot Dead by Israeli Military in Nablus District

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 14:15
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Ref.: LRAD-E010-ALE-31/3
23rd March 2010

Over a 24 hour period on 20 and 21 March 2010, Israeli occupation forces shot and killed four unarmed teenagers in the Nablus district. None were armed or posed any threat to the Israeli soldiers.   These killings demonstrate a total disregard

for the victims' human rights and of international humanitarian law by the Israeli occupation forces.   Saturday 21 March 2010: ‘Iraq Bourin In recent weeks, regular demonstrations have been taking place in the village of Iraq Bourin, in the West Bank district of Nablus, in response to repeated attacks on the villagers and their property by settlers from the surrounding settlements. The settlers are protected and supported by the Israeli occupation forces. On Saturday 20 March 2010, when a demonstration was being held, Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinian teenagers from the village. They are Muhammad Ibrahim Qadous (15 years old) and Usayd „Abd-al-Naser Qadous (17 years old). According to affidavits collected by Al-Haq the boys had not participated in the clashes between the village youth and Israeli military forces which had taken place that day, nor in any form of violent activity prior to being shot. They had carried no form of weapon and did not pose any threat to the Israeli soldiers at the time they were killed.

According to affidavits given by eye-witnesses Deeb (Amir) Qadous and Akram Qadous, Muhammad Qadous was shot as he was standing with his back to Israeli soldiers/ According to medical reports, Muhammad was shot in the back with a live bullet. This evidence contradicts Israeli claims that their forces only used rubber coated bullets and not live rounds.{footnote}West Bank town mourns youths killed by Israel Ynet News 21 March 2010. Available at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3866020,00.html {/footnote}

The eyewitnesses also stated that Usayd Qadous was killed while sitting on the ground near to a local shop. Usayd had inhaled tear gas fired into the village by the Israeli soldiers and was unable to stand up. While sitting on the ground he was shot in the right front side of his head. Again contrary to Israeli claims, medical staff confirmed that the bullet which penetrated his brains was a live bullet and not a rubber coated bullet. According to the witness testimonies, both boys were killed within moments of each other, by the same soldier who directly aimed his gun at each of them. No verbal warning was given, nor were warning shots fired into the air. The soldier was standing by a jeep approximately 70 metres from the boys, who were about 5 metres from each other. Since around 11.00 that morning, the witnesses had observed Israeli forces firing tear gas, sound bombs, live bullets and rubber bullets in the village. The boys were killed that afternoon at approximately 15.00. Following hours of clashes and shooting by Israeli soldiers, which had not resulted in serious injury, the two boys were killed by live rounds within moments of each other. This demonstrates a clear intention on the part of the Israeli forces to kill. After being hit by live bullets, the teenage victims were placed in a private car, the Israeli soldiers withdrew from the village, and the boys were brought to hospital in Nablus. Muhammad was almost immediately pronounced dead at the Nablus Specialized hospital and Usayd was pronounced dead at 04:00am on Sunday 21 March.

Sunday 21 March 2010: ‘Awarta

The following day, Sunday 21 March 2010 Israeli, occupation forces opened fire upon and killed Muhammad Qawariq (18 years old) and Saleh Qawariq (18 years old) from the village of „Awarta, Nablus district. Muhammad and Saleh were first detained, and then killed, by Israeli soldiers as they were on their way to search for scrap iron and to work their farmland. They had with them an axe to assist them in ploughing their land. According to an affidavit given to Al-Haq by Hasan „Awad, the head of the village local council, an Israeli DCO Officer, rank of Captain, by the name of Fares explained to him the incident in the following terms.
According to Fares, who was speaking in Arabic, the Israeli soldiers came across the young men and considered them to be a threat on the basis that they carried an axe. Fares also stated that the men had with them a bottle. The soldiers asked them both for their IDs and they were then forced to sit on the ground for seven minutes. Officer Fares reported that while under detention, one of the two young men got up and attempted to strike a soldier.

The response of the soldiers was to fire around 15 rounds of ammunition at both Muhammad and Saleh resulting in their deaths.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society have reported to Al-Haq that they received a call from the Israeli DCO at 12.05 on 21 March to go to Huwarah checkpoint outside Nablus in order to collect two bodies. At 12.10 a Red Crescent ambulance met an Israeli Civil Administration Car at the checkpoint and followed it to a site where they found the bodies at 12.15. The Red Crescent report that the bodies of the two young men were placed on their backs and covered with sheets under olive trees, about 15 metres from the road. The bodies were set at a distance of about 30 metres from each other. The Red Crescent medics noted that despite the numerous gunshot wounds to the bodies, one of the bodies had no blood on the ground near it, and the other, only a small amount of blood. This would clearly suggest that the Israeli soldiers had removed the bodies from the site at which they were killed and brought them to a new location. The Red Crescent medics noted that both men were dead and observed that there was no evidence of any attempt at having given any medical treatment to the victims. Before the Red Crescent ambulance could transfer the bodies to the hospital in Nablus, Israeli police arrived and took the fingerprints of each of the victims. The bodies were brought to the Rafidia hospital in Nablus at 14.05.

The medical reports of the doctors who received the bodies note that Saleh Qawariq had been shot three times. He had been shot with live rounds once to the left side of his chest, once in his upper stomach, and once in his right arm.

Muhammad Qawariq had been shot with live rounds four times in his left upper chest, with exit wounds to the right of his back, once to the right of his waist, once to the left of his waist, and once in his left thigh and knee. Muhammed had been shot a total of seven times.

The gunshot wounds on both bodies were characterized by entry wounds as large as the exit wounds. These entry wounds were surrounded by burn marks. The specifics of these wounds have been held by Dr Saber Al Oul, specialist in autopsy, as evidence that the men were shot at very close range, no more than between two to ten metres.

{/footnote} Officer Fares does mention that they had a bottle but he did not know what kind it was or what was in it – he did not mention that they tried to use it in any way against the soldiers. Unsubstantiated claims such as those made by Israel recall a similar incident documented recently by Al-Haq. In February 2010, a 41 year old Palestinian resident of Hebron was shot dead by Israeli occupation forces who claimed he had attacked them with a knife. Eyewitness reports subsequently revealed that the victim had been unarmed when killed and that an Israeli soldier had taken a knife from his own pocket and placed it beside the man‟s body.{footnote}Excessive Use of Force and Wilful Killing in Hebron, LRAD_E010_CO_22/3, 3 March 2010. Available at: http://www.alhaq.org/etemplate.php?id=510v{/footnote}

Legal Analysis of the Four Killings

The two cases of killings bear many similarities. In neither case can Israeli soldiers be considered to have been in any danger. In neither case can the victims be considered to have posed any threat to those who killed them. All were unarmed. In both cases the evidence documented by Al-Haq suggests a clear intention on the part of Israeli occupation forces to kill the teenagers.
In a situation of military occupation, any deliberate and intentional killing of a civilian that is not justified under the principles of proportionality or military necessity qualifies both as the war crime of willful killing, which is a grave breach of Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Willful killing is “the death of the victim as a result of the action(s) of the accused, who intended to cause death or serious injury which, as it is reasonable to assume, he had to understand was likely to lead to death, and which he committed against a protected person”,{footnote}Prosecutor v. Kordic and Cerkez, Case No. IT-95-14/2-A, (Appeals Chamber, ICTY) 17 December 2004, para. 36.{/footnote} Moreover, when a civilian is killed in a situation that is not lawful under international humanitarian law, it constitutes a violation of the right to life under international human rights law. Such actions as those documented above, and the extreme and disproportionate use of force against the victims, demonstrates a blatant disregard for the life of the victims and are in clear contravention of international standards on the use of force, international humanitarian and human rights law, particularly the right to life.
In accordance with international human rights law binding upon Israel, Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights establishes that every individual has an inherent right to life, which is to be protected by law, and that no one should be arbitrarily deprived of his life. In its general comment on the right to life, the Human Rights Committee states that killing by state security forces must be strictly regulated by law, so that circumstances involving the deprivation of life are strictly limited and controlled. The Committee also requires State parties to the Covenant to take measures to prevent and punish arbitrary killing by their security forces, which is considered a matter of utmost gravity.
Israeli political and military officials can be held responsible for the crimes of ordinary soldiers. Under the customary international law notion of command responsibility, where a superior knew or had reason to know that subordinates were committing or had committed a crime, he is under an obligation to take preventative or punitive measures against them. The “duty to punish arises after the superior acquires knowledge of the commission of the crime”.{footnote}Prosecutor v. Limaj, Bala and Musliu, Case No. IT-03-66-T (Trial Chamber, ICTY) 30 November 2005, para. 527.{/footnote} This duty “encompasses the obligation to conduct an effective investigation with a view to establishing the facts” and to take active steps to ensure that the perpetrators will be punished.{footnote}Prosecutor v. Limaj, Bala and Musliu, Case No. IT-03-66-T (Trial Chamber, ICTY) 30 November 2005, para 529{/footnote} Should the superior lack powers of sanction, he must alert the competent authorities to the perpetrators‟ actions. A failure to punish or prevent crimes committed by subordinates, leads to the individual criminal responsibility of the superior. Israeli officials, including Captain Fares, may well be subject to the provision.

Al-Haq’s Conclusions

In light of the reported facts, it is clear that the young Palestinian civilians shot and killed in 'Iraq Bourin and „Awarta were subjected to unlawful and disproportionate force. There is clear evidence of the commission by Israeli occupation forces of grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, which are a war crime; namely willful killing. There was no reasonable justification for the Israeli occupation forces to have killed these boys and young men, and that the evidence points to grave breaches and war crimes, Al-Haq calls upon the Israeli Military Advocate General to:

  • Initiate an independent and impartial investigation into the circumstances of each of these cases and to hold those responsible for killing Muhammad Ibrahim Qadous, Usayd Abd-el-Nasser Qadous, Muhammad Qawariq, and Saleh Qawariq to account for both their actions and omissions.

  • Investigate the use of live rounds by Israeli soldiers against unarmed civilians and against detainees, and to hold soldiers who use live ammunition in such circumstances to account.

  • Ensure that the Israeli military comply with all their obligations under international law in order to prevent the recurrence of any such incidents in the future.

Incidents of willful killing of Palestinian civilians by Israeli occupying forces, that have been widely documented in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa intifada in 2000.

Such incidents of war crimes have rarely been investigated by the Israeli occupation authorities. It is incumbent upon the Israeli authorities to immediately undertake serious, genuine, and credible investigations.

As a step towards ending the culture of impunity that pervades Israel‟s 43-year occupation, Al-Haq calls upon States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to demand that Israel take appropriate action in each of these cases. In the event of Israel‟s failure to investigate, Al-Haq urges States parties to take action as per their obligations under Articles 1 and 146 of the Convention to hold the Israeli soldiers and officials responsible for the willful killings documented herein accountable for their actions.

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