The Palestinian Authority should make public the proceedings and findings of its inquiry into the fatal shooting of two protestors in Gaza City on October 8, Human Rights Watch said today.
Human Rights Watch said a public commission of inquiry should have the power to call and protect witnesses, including police officials, and the capacity to recommend criminal proceedings if necessary. The Palestinian Authority should commit itself to implementing the recommendations of the commission and to ensuring that any individuals found responsible for wrongdoing are brought to justice, Human Rights Watch said.
"While we recognize that police have an obligation to maintain law and order, there are international law enforcement standards that set strict limits on the use of lethal force," said Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "The Palestinian Authority must ensure that its police force abides by them."
On the morning of October 8, Palestinian police confronted a crowd of over 1,000 students in Gaza City. The students were marching from the Islamic University to the Palestinian Legislative Council to protest U.S. air strikes against Afghanistan. According to eyewitness accounts, police initially tried to block the march by using tear gas and by beating demonstrators with batons. While the exact circumstances are unclear, police opened fire on protestors, killing Yusuf Mohammed Abd al Hadi (19) and Abdullah al Efranji (14), and critically wounding Haitham Tawfiq Abu Shammala (19). Mr Shammala is in the intensive care unit at Shifa Hospital in Gaza with a severe head wound.
After police opened fire, violent clashes ensued. More than fifty people were injured, including policemen, and several police stations and businesses were ransacked. The Palestinian leadership announced on October 9 that it would set up on an urgent basis a commission of inquiry to examine the events.
The most relevant international standard on police conduct is Article 9 of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, Cuba, August 27 to September 7, 1990):
Law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting their authority, or to prevent his or her escape, and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives. In any event, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.
The full text of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials can be found here.