Al-Haq Sends Urgent Appeal to UN Special Procedures on the Extrajudicial Execution and Wilful Killing of Palestinian Person with Disability Iyad Al-Hallaq
Date: 9 June 2020
On 8 June 2020, Al-Haq sent a detailed 17-page urgent appeal to several United Nations (UN) Special Procedures mandates on the extrajudicial execution and wilful killing of Palestinian person with disability, Iyad Khayri Al-Hallaq, a 31-year-old Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem. Iyad was shot and killed on his way to Elwyn Centre, a day centre for youth and adults with disabilities in the Old City of Jerusalem on Saturday, 30 May 2020, in violation of international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and in what amounts to the commission of a war crime.
Facts of the case
Iyad suffered from an intellectual disability with autistic traits that limited his interaction with the outside world and physical disabilities that affected his hearing and movement, which caused shaking in his hands, making it difficult for him to carry things. When Iyad first started attending Elwyn Centre, he was initially accompanied by someone every day for the first two years. Once Iyad could safely walk from his house to the Centre, he started to walk alone. Iyad had previously shared his fears about the Israeli police with his parents. Since then, they made sure he always carried his disability identification card on him, which shows that he has a permanent disability, as well as a document confirming his attendance of Elwyn Centre.
Iyad Al-Hallaq was on the way to the Centre from his home on the day he was killed. When Israeli border police called him, he started running away due to his fear of the police. Although Iyad was running away, he posed no threat to the Israeli occupying forces nor to anyone else in the area. Iyad’s caregiver Warda Abu Hadid, 46, who was at the scene repeatedly told the Israeli border police, in Hebrew and in Arabic, that Iyad had a disability, but they ignored her calls. Instead, Iyad was shot with live ammunition. An Israeli border police officer with a gun followed him and threatened Iyad and Warda, asking, “where is the pistol?”. Warda told him she did not have a gun. Later, the Israeli police confirmed that no weapon was found in Iyad’s possession. Warda then again informed the officer, in a language he understood, that Iyad was a person with disability while Iyad, pointing at Warda, told the officer that he was with his teacher. Iyad’s calls were also ignored. Then, after about five minutes, the Israeli border police officer shot three live bullets at Iyad, from a distance not exceeding five metres. Critically injured, Iyad did not receive medical assistance until about 20 minutes later when an ambulance was allowed access to the scene.
In addition to the killing of Iyad Al-Hallaq, Warda, Iyad’s teacher and caregiver, was threatened by the Israeli border police with a gun pointed to her head and repeatedly questioned about a pistol she did not have. Then, immediately after Iyad was fatally shot, she was taken away for interrogation at the Israeli police station located at Bab Al-Asbat. There, she was forced to take off her hijab and clothes. She was strip-searched and kept in the police station for about two hours.Then, she was taken to Al-Mascobiyya interrogation centre in Jerusalem, where she was subjected to another three hours of interrogation before she was released. Only the next day was Warda called in by the Israeli police to testify to Iyad’s killing. The hours of harassment and intimidation during Israeli interrogation left Warda shivering and in a state of hysteria, amounting to prohibited ill-treatment.
The killing of Iyad Al-Hallaq amounts to an extrajudicial execution in violation of his rights to life and health. The Israeli border police resorted to lethal force against Iyad in the absence of necessity and proportionality, without a threat of death or serious injury, without issuing any warning signs before resorting to lethal force, and did not use lethal force as a last resort, in gross violation of international human rights law. Moreover, the Israeli border police officer knew that Iyad was a person with disability at the time he shot and killed him. There is further reason to believe that the deprivation of Iyad’s life was based on discrimination and was therefore arbitrary in nature. Over the years, human rights organisations have repeatedly highlighted Israel’s systematic shoot-to-kill policy targeting the Palestinian people and the illegality of Israel’s rules of engagement for the use of live fire, disproportionately targeting Palestinians.
The targeting of Iyad Al-Hallaq falls within the law enforcement paradigm. Al-Haq notes that the Israeli border police officer who shot and killed Iyad had been repeatedly informed of Iyad’s disability. As such, the killing was carried out with knowledge of Iyad’s protected status both as a civilian and a person with disability. This must be taken together with the element of premeditation, given that five minutes passed while Iyad constituted no threat to life or injury of anyone around him, before the Israeli border police officer fatally shot and killed him. In light of the above, the killing of Iyad Al-Hallaq amounts to wilful killing, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention under Article 147, giving rise to individual criminal responsibility.
Under international criminal law, the killing of Iyad Al-Hallaq amounts to the war crime of wilful killing within the meaning of Article 8(2)(a)(i) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and entails the individual criminal responsibility of the Israeli officer who committed the crime as well as that of Israeli military and civilian officials who drafted and approved Israel’s illegal rules of engagement for the use of live fire. The Rome Statute further prohibits murder as a crime against humanity under Article 7(1)(a) “when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.” Al-Haq stresses that, in light of Israel’s systematic shoot-to-kill policy and excessive use of force targeting Palestinians, and the systematic resort to live fire according to rules of engagement which violate international human rights law, the elements of the crime against humanity of murder are satisfied. Finally, Al-Haq recalls that the crimes of wilful killing and murder are committed “in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime,” which constitutes the crime of apartheid within the meaning of Article 7(2)(h) of the Rome Statute.
Excessive use of force against Palestinians, including persons with disabilities
Iyad is the seventeenth Palestinian killed by the Israeli occupying forces in the occupied Palestinian territory during the first half of 2020. Palestinians, including persons with disabilities, have been systematically targeted and killed by the Israeli occupying forces over the years, including where they were clearly recognisable as persons with disabilities. For example, on 15 December 2017, during demonstrations in the Gaza Strip, prominent Palestinian human rights defender, Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, 29, from Deir Al-Balah, was shot in the head and killed by an Israeli sniper from a 15-metre range. At the time, Ibrahim, a double amputee who had lost both his legs in an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza Strip in 2008, was demonstrating peacefully in his wheelchair and holding up a Palestinian flag. A further ten Palestinian persons with disabilities were killed by Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian territory in 2018, five of whom had psychosocial, intellectual, or developmental disabilities. On 4 December 2018, the Israeli occupying forces killed 22-year-old Muhammad Habali during a military raid on Toulkarem. Muhammad was shot from an 80-metre distance by the Israeli occupying forces near his place of work, while not posing any threat to life or serious injury.
Between 30 March 2018 and the end of 2019, the Israeli occupying forces killed seven persons with disabilities during the Great Return March demonstrations in the Gaza Strip. In February 2019, the UN Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory found, that of the 189 Palestinians killed by the Israeli occupying forces during the Great Return March in 2018, only two incidents may have justified the use of lethal force. Notably, the Commission of Inquiry “found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers, children and persons with disabilities, knowing they were clearly recognizable as such.” The Commission also found that Israel’s rules of engagement for the use of live fire were in violation of international human rights law and recommended that the Israeli government ensure these rules of engagement permit lethal force “only as a last resort, where the person targeted poses an imminent threat to life or directly participates in hostilities.”
On 22 March 2019, the UN Human Rights Council adopted the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry in accountability resolution 40/13 and called on all duty bearers and UN bodies to pursue their implementation. Over a year since, the Commission’s recommendations remain unimplemented, while Israel’s institutionalised impunity for widespread and systematic human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people has prevailed.
Conclusion and recommendations
In light of the above, Al-Haq has addressed its urgent appeal to six UN Special Procedures mandates urging public condemnation of the illegal conduct of the Israeli occupying forces and calling for international justice and accountability as well as full reparations for Iyad’s family. The appeal was addressed to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, as well as the Special Rapporteurs on the rights of persons with disabilities, extrajudicial executions, racism, torture and ill-treatment, and health, and called on the mandate-holders to:
- Publicly condemn the extrajudicial execution and wilful killing of Iyad Al-Hallaq by the Israeli border police, which amounts to a war crime under the Rome Statute and gives rise to individual criminal responsibility, as well as the ill-treatment of Warda Abu Hadid;
- Send a communication to Israel, the occupying Power, and call on the Israeli occupying authorities to immediately bring their rules of engagement for the use of live fire in line with international human rights law, as recommended by the UN Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory and adopted by the Human Rights Council in accountability resolution 40/13 of 22 March 2019;
- Recognise institutionalised impunity for Israel’s widespread and systematic human rights violations against Palestinians, including within Israeli judicial mechanisms, as forming part and parcel of Israel’s apartheid regime of systematic racial oppression and domination over the Palestinian people as a whole;
- Call for international justice and accountability for widespread and systematic human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people, including suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity, by urging third States to activate universal jurisdiction mechanisms and by calling for the immediate opening of a full, thorough, and comprehensive investigation by the ICC into the Situation in Palestine.