UNITED NATIONS : A United Nations human rights expert condemned the massacre on Monday of seven Palestinian protestors and wounding of another 200 by Israeli security forces at a Gaza demonstration as an "ongoing affront to human rights and human dignity".
Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory said the action indicates that the Israeli security forces were not heeding the international criticism of their use of lethal fire against Palestinian demonstrators, who appeared to pose no credible threat to Israeli security forces.
Two of the Palestinians killed on Friday were boys aged 11 and 14. One Gaza-based human rights group, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights , estimates that 163 of the injured demonstrators were shot with live fire.
Since the start of the Great March of Return on 30 March, more than 150 Palestinians have been killed during demonstrations near the Gaza fence by the Israeli security forces. More than 10,000 demonstrators have been wounded during this period, more than half of them by live fire. A number of the wounded have suffered devastating and life-long injuries.
"International human rights law imposes strict obligations on the use of force by law enforcement officials," Lynk said. Lethal force against demonstrators is absolutely forbidden unless strictly unavoidable in the case of an imminent threat to life or threat of serious injury. Many of those killed and wounded appear to have presented no such imminent threat.
"As I have said in previous statements regarding the recent violence at the Gaza fence, the killing and wounding of demonstrators, in the absence of any strictly-measured justification, and within the context of occupation, may amount to willful killing, which is both a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and a war crime. It is also a serious violation of international human rights law and its protections for the rights to freedom of expression and assembly."
The Special Rapporteur expressed hope that the recently-appointed UN Commission of Inquiry will be able to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the deaths and injuries in Gaza over the past six months. "Accountability is paramount in the global quest to advance human rights and to bring perpetrators to justice in accordance with the rule of law," Lynk said.