ICJ condemns illegal use of force in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

The ICJ today deplored the use by Israel of heavy weaponry, including tanks, helicopters and missiles, against stone throwing civilians in residential areas as a disproportionate use of force in violation of international law.

The ICJ is deeply concerned at the past 13 days of bloodshed in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank in which close to ninety people, most of them Palestinians or Israeli Arabs (including young children) have been killed and hundreds injured. The ICJ notes that the Palestinian police are also reported to have engaged in small scale and occasional shooting. Their conduct must also be consistent with international standards.

Last week, the ICJ (through its Swedish section) dispatched an observer (former Ombudsman Per Erik Nilsson) to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He visited hospitals and private homes in Ramallah, Nazareth and Jerusalem and met with the wounded. He has confirmed that Israeli forces have fired live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and « dumdum » bullets – which are well known for causing massive bodily injury. Many of the wounded sustained injuries in their chest, neck and eyes- i.e. well above the waistline. This appears consistent with a policy of shooting with the intention to kill.

The indiscriminate and excessive use of force by the Israeli armed forces breaches international humanitarian law – and, in particular, the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilians Persons in Time of War. It also violates the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (1990) which prescribes that such officials are, inter-alia, ” to minimise damage and injury and respect and preserve human life” and “ensure that firearms are used in a manner likely to decrease the risk of unnecessary harm”.

While Israel claims its actions are to preserve the well being of its citizens and the security of the State, this action must remain, at all times, consistent with its obligations under international law. The ICJ welcomes, in this respect, Security Council Resolution 1322 of 7 October 2000, which calls on Israel to abide by its legal obligations and responsibilities.

The ICJ calls for:

  • Israel to immediately ensure respect for international law by ordering its forces to desist from exercising indiscriminate and disproportionate force;
  • the Palestinian Authority and people to put an end to violent uprising and instead resort to peaceful demonstrations in support of their cause;
  • the establishment of an independent and international commission to investigate recent tragic events;
  • an urgent and fair solution to the conflict consistent with international law
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