UN commission's report on Palestinian protests is scathing indictment of Israeli government on all fronts

UN commission: Israeli use of live ammunition is illegal; rules of engagement approved by Israeli Supreme Court violate international norms; Israeli gov't hasn't meaningfully investigated and prosecuted anyone responsible for crimes against Palestinians.

Issued 28 February 2019 (Updated 5 March 2019)


Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel issued a response to the report released on Thursday, 28 February 2019, by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (COI).


"The report issued today by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests is a scathing indictment of the Israeli government on all fronts. Adalah welcomes the COI's adoption of the analysis that we and other human rights organizations provided and its rejection of the Israeli Supreme Court's decision which allowed the continued use of lethal force against Palestinian civilian protesters in Gaza. The commission also adopted Adalah's analysis that the Israeli government has not meaningfully investigated and prosecuted Israeli commanders and soldiers – and even expressed doubts over Israel's willingness to do so. As Adalah continues to struggle in the courts for reparations for Palestinian victims, the commission also determined that Israeli law is not in accordance with international law. The commission calls for investigations and prosecutions of those suspected of being responsible for these crimes."


In November 2018, Adalah submitted a report to the UN COI highlighting Israel's inaction and persistent unwillingness to conduct genuine investigations into grave incidents of suspected war crimes against unarmed Palestinian civilians in both 2014 and 2018.


The UN COI presented a summary of its report on 28 February 2019 in a press conference broadcast live online from Geneva. The full report will be presented at the UN Human Rights Council on 18 March 2019.




The commission found that the demonstrations were civilian in nature, and determined that the international human rights law framework – which offers the greatest protections to civilians – applies to the protests.


The commission also found that "the use of live ammunition by Israeli security forces against demonstrators was unlawful", as the protestors did not pose any threat to the lives of Israeli soldiers or civilians or participate directly in hostilities. In its investigations of 189 fatalities, the commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli forces intentionally used lethal force against civilians, including children, medical personnel, journalists, and persons with disabilities.


The commission also detailed the life-changing injuries inflicted on demonstrators, including 21 people who became paralyzed, nine who suffered permanent loss of vision, and 122 who had undergone amputations.


The Israeli Supreme Court approved the military's rules of engagement, which included permission to shoot at "main inciters". The commission, however, found that "main inciters" is not a category that exists in international law. Indeed, according to the COI, the Israeli court's use of this category undermined the accepted legal standard of "imminent threat to life" for the use of lethal force. The commission cites the findings of Israel's Or Commission of Inquiry that made it unequivocally clear that the use of live ammunition – including snipers – is not a legal means to disperse crowds. These means can only be used if there is a real and immediate threat to life.


The commission found that these acts, as well as the grave injuries inflicted on civilian demonstrators, are serious human rights violations that may constitute "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity".




The commission found that Israeli responsibility for the killing and wounding of Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza lies on two fronts: 1) Israeli military snipers, spotters, and commanders on site; and 2) those who drafted and approved the Israeli military's rules of engagement.


The commission also found that the Israeli government has consistently failed to meaningfully investigate and prosecute commanders and soldiers for crimes and violations committed against Palestinians, or to provide reparations to victims in accordance with international norms. Scarce Israeli accountability measures arising out of Israeli military Operations Cast Lead (2008-2009) and Protective Edge (2014) in Gaza, and public comments by high-ranking Israeli public officials, cast doubt over the state's willingness to scrutinize the actions of its military and civilian leadership.




The commission called on the Israeli government to: 1) refrain from using lethal force against civilian demonstrators; 2) lift the blockade on Gaza; 3) ensure prompt access for injured protestors to hospitals out of Gaza; 4ensure investigations and prosecutions in accordance with international standards; and 5) amend Israeli law that allows the exemption of Israel from paying civil damages to Palestinians, claiming that Gaza is an "enemy entity".


The commission recommends that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights provide both to national and international justice mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court (ICC)  evidence files concerning alleged perpetrators of crimes.


The commission further recommends that UN member states consider sanctions – such as freezing assets and imposing travel bans – against specific Israeli individuals identified by the commission as responsible. The commission also recommends that state parties to the Geneva Convention and to the Rome Statute exercise criminal jurisdiction and arrest persons alleged to have committed – or to have ordered the commission of – international crimes as detailed in the report.


CLICK HERE to read Adalah's report to the UN COI


CLICK HERE to see the UN COI report and related materials


(Photo: UN Web TV)