83 human rights groups and civil society organizations from around the world have written an urgent letter to the United Nations (UN) Special Procedures office to appeal for a thorough investigation into the deliberate extrajudicial killing of a Palestinian man, Ahmed Erekat, by Israeli soldiers last month. In the appeal published on Al Haq website on July 14, the signatories urge the UN to ensure delivery of justice and accountability of those responsible for the cold blooded murder. The letter points to Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy which is routinely used with impunity to target and kill Palestinians with no lawful cause or justification. Such illegal killings amount to war crimes as per a statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and under International law.
27-year-old Erekat was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers at a military checkpoint in the occupied West Bank on June 23 after he lost control of his car and rammed it into a curb near the checkpoint. As soon as he stepped out of the car to check the damage, Israeli soldiers opened fire at him without any provocation. The soldiers then left him lying on the ground for over an hour as he bled to death. Erekat was on his way to pick up his sister and mother on the day of his sister’s wedding. His own wedding was also coming up soon.
The Israeli military claimed that Erekat attacked the soldiers at the checkpoint and posed a threat. However, family members have outrightly rejected the Israeli claim, saying that it is clear in the video of the crash that Erekat did not act violently, especially given that it was his sister’s wedding day.
Prominent organizations that are signatories to the letter include Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Defense for Children International (DCI) – Palestine, Al-Haq, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Adalah Justice Project, several international BDS organizations, Jewish Voice for Peace, Venezuelan Workers Solidarity, and others. In their appeal, they call on the UN to take necessary steps to end the Israeli impunity that has resulted in the killing of 21 Palestinians in the first half of 2020 alone. The letter also asks for the perpetrators of such killings to be tried under international law for war crimes and crime against humanity.
The letter also calls out the Israeli practice of illegally holding the bodies of Palestinians killed by its soldiers. This ends up being a collective punishment for the entire family and community of the murdered Palestinians. Erakat’s body has also not been released to his family after more than 20 days of his murder. The family has thus been unable to accord him a proper burial as per their religious customs.
Israel is still withholding the bodies of at least 63 Palestinians killed by its forces. This practice was deemed by the UN Committee against Torture, in 2016, as ‘prohibited ill-treatment’. The joint appeal letter asks the UN to put pressure on Israel to unconditionally release the bodies of all Palestinians that are currently in its custody.
The letter concludes by stating that the criminal and illegal policies and actions by Israel stem from the continuously expanding occupation of the Palestinian territories, which has resulted in an Israeli apartheid against Palestinians. It urges the UN and its member states to work towards ending the Israeli occupation and apartheid, to prevent the illegal annexation of the city of Jerusalem, and to force Israel to lift its crippling blockade on the Gaza strip. The world community should ensure that Palestinians enjoy the same human and political rights as Israelis, including the right of return for Palestinians refugees, and the internationally recognized right to self-determination.