The Arab Federation for Human Rights (AFHR) calls for immediate investigations into the death of a Palestinian journalist and nine others killed while covering a deadly protest between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces on Gaza’s border with Israel. The Federation highlights that this illustrates the brutality of the state of Israeli against the Palestinian people which contravenes several international laws and human rights principles. Such brutality may also constitute crimes against humanity under international humanitarian laws for which perpetrators could be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Last Friday, Israeli forces fired live bullets on a large crowd of Palestinians protesting along the Gaza border which resulted in the death of nine Palestinians, including a journalist – Yasser Murtaja, a photographer working for a Gaza-based agency. Murtaja was killed on duty while he was taking photo shots of the 10 days of protests and clashes along the Gaza Strip border in which Israeli security forces have killed 30 Palestinians. He is believed to have been wearing a navy-blue protective vest marked with ‘PRESS’ in capital letters and a helmet. About 491 others were injured during the violent demonstrations with no reported Israeli casualties.
The Arab Federation for Human Rights vehemently condemns the cruel firing of live ammunition and the indiscriminate killing of civilians especially journalists during a peaceful protest. AFHR reiterates that such action is a grave breach of international human rights laws and values such as the right to life, liberty and security of person as stated in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights.
In addition, the Additional Protocols of the Fourth Geneva Conventions defines journalists in war zones or conflict areas as civilians who need equal protection from any discrimination or violence against them. For example, Article 79 of Additional Protocol I highlights that journalists are entitled to all rights and protections granted to civilians in international armed conflicts. This holds true in non-international armed conflicts like the Israel-Palestinian clashes by virtue of customary international law.
Furthermore, it is also noteworthy to mention that acts of violence against media professionals – whether in armed or non-armed conflicts – amount to war crimes and crime against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for which perpetrators could be referred to and prosecuted at the ICC.
Recently, the ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, made an urgent call to the end of violence in the Gaza Strip. She also added that “any person who incites or engages in acts of violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner to the commission of crimes within ICC’s jurisdiction is liable to prosecution before the Court”.
In 2015, Palestinian authorities signed up to the ICC’s founding Rome Statute document in which they accepted the court’s jurisdiction. Thus, any form of violence or crimes committed within its territories including those carried out by the Israeli occupation forces will be liable for investigation and prosecution under the ICC.
The Arab Federation Human Rights therefore calls on for an urgent investigation into the killings of the 30 Palestinians including the journalists during the protest and to refer the culprits to the ICC for prosecution. The Federation equally urges all sides in the clashes to refrain from resorting to violence. AFHR further urges for a peaceful dialogue between all parties in the Gaza Strip and Israeli authorities and to put an immediate end to the violent protest. The Federation also calls on the UN Security Council and the international community to pressure the US not to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel of which it believes is the cause of the present clashes.
Arab Federation for Human Rights,
Geneva, April 9th 2018