GENEVA (17 December 2020) – UN human rights experts* today called for an impartial and independent investigation into the killing of a 15-year-old boy by Israeli security forces at a West Bank protest this month, saying they were deeply troubled by the overall lack of accountability for the killings of Palestinian children in recent years.  

“The killing of Ali Ayman Abu Aliya by the Israeli Defense Forces – in circumstances where there was no threat of death or serious injury to the Israeli Security Forces – is a grave violation of international law,” said the experts. “Intentional lethal force is justified only when the security personnel are facing an immediate threat of deadly force or serious harm.”

On 4 December, Palestinian youths in Al-Mughayyir protested against the construction of a nearby illegal Israeli settlement outpost. Information gathered by civil society organisations and the UN Human Rights Office indicated that they had thrown stones at Israeli Security Forces, who responded with rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas and, eventually, live ammunition.

Abu Aliya was hit in the abdomen with a bullet from a 0.22 Ruger Precision Rifle, fired by an Israeli soldier from an estimated 100-150 metres. He died later that day in hospital. The human rights experts are unaware of any claims that the Israeli security forces were in danger at any point of death or serious injury.   

The experts said Abu Aliya was the sixth Palestinian child living in the West Bank to be killed in 2020 by Israeli security forces using live ammunition. According to information received, it is understood that 1,048 Palestinian children have been injured by Israeli security forces across the Occupied Palestinian Territory between 1 November 2019 and 31 October 2020.

“Children enjoy special protected rights under international law,” the experts said. “Each of these killings raises deep concerns about Israel’s adherence to its solemn human rights and humanitarian law obligations as the occupying power.”

The Israeli Security Forces announced that they would conduct an investigation into Abu Aliya’s killing. The human rights experts noted, however, that investigations by the Israeli Defense Forces of fatal shootings of Palestinians by its soldiers rarely result in appropriate accountability.

Civil society organisations have documented the deaths of 155 Palestinian children by Israeli Security Forces using live ammunition or crowd-control weapons since 2013. Only three indictments on criminal charges have been issued for offences directly tied to those killings. In one case, the charges were subsequently dropped. In the second case, the responsible soldier reached a plea deal and was sentenced to nine months jail for death by negligence. In the third case, a soldier was convicted of not obeying orders and sentenced to one month in military prison.

“This low level of legal accountability for the killings of so many children by Israeli security forces is unworthy of a country which proclaims that it lives by the rule of law,” the experts said.

“We call upon the Government of Israel to either conduct an independent, impartial, prompt and transparent civilian investigation according to international standards into this deeply troubling human rights record, or to allow an international impartial and independent human rights review to be conducted,” they said.

“Such an investigation – domestic or international – must be directed towards ensuring that children living under occupation no longer face death or injury when exercising their legitimate right to protest, and that the culture of impunity for military misconduct is ended.”

Mr. Michael Lynk  Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967. Ms. Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page: Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel