Conviction of Israeli soldier must pave the way for justice for unlawful killings

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The conviction of an Israeli soldier who shot dead a Palestinian man involved in a knife attack in Hebron as he lay wounded on the ground offers a small glimmer of hope amid the rampant impunity for unlawful killings in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, said Amnesty International today.

The soldier, Elor Azaria, was found guilty of the manslaughter of Abed al-Fatah al-Sharif, one of two Palestinians believed to have been involved in the stabbing of an Israeli soldier on 24 March 2016 in Hebron, after a military court ruled unanimously that his actions violated the Israeli army’s rules of engagement.

“Today’s conviction of a member of the Israeli forces is a rare occurrence in a country with a long record of using excessive and unwarranted force, and where soldiers who may have committed crimes under international law very seldom face prosecution. The verdict is a small step in the right direction and offers a glimmer of hope that soldiers who commit unlawful killings may no longer go unpunished,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

Video evidence which emerged of the incident showed Elor Azaria appearing to shoot the injured man with no apparent justification, and the court ruled that the only reason for the shooting was his wish to take revenge for the previous knife attack. For a soldier to carry out the deliberate killing of someone who had been captured and posed no imminent threat to life would amount to an extrajudicial execution and is a crime under international law.

Elor Azari’s claims that he had acted in self-defence fearing the wounded man wore an explosive vest were firmly rejected by the court.
A spike in violence in the West Bank since October 2015 has seen a rise in unlawful killings – including stabbing and other attacks on Israeli soldiers, police and civilians by Palestinians and apparent extrajudicial executions by Israeli forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Over the past year at least 16

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