Human Rights Watch urged Prime Minister Ehud Barak to halt Israel's policy of "liquidation" of Palestinians suspected of attacks on Israeli security forces and civilians.
"This is in essence a policy of killing without public accountability," said Hanny Megally, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division. "The Prime Minister of Israel is effectively acting as prosecutor, judge, and jury, in a secret process where the death sentence can't be appealed."
Israeli officials have argued that the individuals designated for "liquidation" are legitimate military targets, but have not made public any evidence to substantiate this claim. Decisions to kill particular individuals have not been subject to any transparent civilian or military review, raising concerns that civilians may be among those being targeted for death.
Human Rights Watch expressed concern that in several cases the killings took place in areas under Israeli control, where it may have been possible to arrest suspects. In at least one case where Israel claims its forces did attempt to arrest a suspect, he was gunned down in suspicious circumstances.
"Israel has previously disregarded essential safeguards against summary executions," Megally said. "This policy fosters a climate in which Israeli security forces may resort to lethal force in cases where non-lethal means of apprehending suspects are readily available."
Human Rights Watch also called on Prime Minister Barak to order a full review of the policy to ensure that no civilians have been deliberately targeted. The organization urged the government to establish a commission of inquiry to whether it would have been possible to incapacitate those killed by non-lethal means, and whether steps were taken to minimize injury to civilians and civilian property. Those responsible for wrongdoing should be brought to justice or disciplined, and the victims compensated.
Text of the letter sent to Prime Minister Barak can be found here