Geneva- An urgent letter was sent by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor on Sunday to Mr. David Kay, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, on Israel’s targeting of journalists at the Gaza borders.
Euro-Med Monitor called in the letter for an urgent international investigation into the killing of 30-year-old Yasser Murtaja, a Palestinian journalist and father of a child, while covering last Friday's demonstrations at the Gaza border. Murtaja was shot even though he was wearing a press vest.
Four UN experts, including the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, issued an urgent statement regarding the protests in Gaza, stressing that “International law sets strict prohibitions on the use of force by law enforcement officials.”
Although the organizers stressed that the protests are non-violent, Israeli snipers killed 17 demonstrators “who posed no immediate threat to the soldiers and injured about 1,200 others on March 30, 2018,” the letter said.
“To blur Israeli snipers vision, protesters have resorted last Friday, April 6, 2018 to burning tires at the borders, yet this did not protect them from Israeli snipers’ fire, with eight more shot dead, and about 700 injured, including journalist Yasser Murtaja,” the letter added.
The letter further called for “necessary action and for raising the issue with the Israeli Government to end its violations against Palestinians in Gaza, to immediately lift the siege, and to allow Palestinians to express their opinion without threat, killing or intimidation.”
The letter also expressed hope for “prompt action by contacting the Israeli authorities so that they make sure civilians are not harmed while practicing their right to peaceful protest and assembly.
In the same context, the UN experts reiterated the UN Secretary General’s call for “an investigation into Israel’s response. The experts expressed deep concern at reports that Israel’s Minister of Defense stated that there will not be any inquiry into Israel’s actions.”
The experts also said that “there is no available evidence to suggest that the lives of heavily armed security forces were threatened,” and stressed that “Israel has ignored repeated demands by the international community to credibly investigate and prosecute substantial allegations of wrongful killings by its security forces.”
The UN experts also said that some of “the dead and wounded were shot in “their upper bodies while at considerable distances from the Israeli security forces.” They also expressed concern at the “apparent disregard for the lives of Palestinian protesters,” noting that “wilful killing or serious injury of the protected population amounts to grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
The experts also expressed alarm over reports that the Israeli Defense Forces posted a message on Twitter on Saturday with regard to the events on Friday, stating that “Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”
At the end of their statement, the experts reminded the Government of Israel that “peaceful protest is a legitimate exercise of the rights of freedom of expression, assembly, and association,” warning that Israel, “as the occupying power, is obligated to protect and to respect the human rights of the Palestinians living in occupied Gaza.”
Earlier, Euro-Med Monitor sent letters to a number of international officials calling on them to work to ensure the safety of Palestinian protesters on the borders of the Gaza Strip and to discuss with the concerned countries ways to overcome the crisis while preserving the right of Palestinians in Gaza to peacefully protest the crippling blockade and the closure of crossings by Israel and Egypt to and out the coastal enclave.