By Amnesty International UK
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: TUESDAY 7 OCTOBER 2008
HURNDALL CASE: ISRAELI MILITARY FORCES STILL KILL CIVILIANS WITH ‘NEAR-TOTAL IMPUNITY’
Ahead of a new television drama based on the controversial killing in 2004 in Gaza of British national Tom Hurndall (“The Shooting Of Thomas Hurndall”, Channel Four Television, Monday 13 October), Amnesty International has renewed its call for justice for Mr Hurndall’s family.
The human rights organisation has described a situation where Israeli military forces kill civilians in Gaza with “near-total impunity” – and while Mr Hurndall’s death has led to the conviction of one Israeli soldier on manslaughter charges, Amnesty insists that this was almost solely due to the determination of his family rather than the Israeli military authorities’ own efforts to see justice done.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“The shocking truth is that Israeli soldiers kill civilians in Gaza with near-total impunity, week in week out.
“Tom Hurndall’s family have fought hard to achieve justice over his tragic death but the general position is one where independent investigations of civilian killings almost never happen and where the process itself lacks independence and impartiality.
“Where, exceptionally, an individual Israeli soldier is held responsible for a civilian death or injury, typically no-one further up the command structure is ever held accountable.”
Amnesty remains extremely concerned that Israeli military personnel continue to operate unaccountably in Gaza. In April this year, for example, a Reuters cameraman – Fadel Shana – was killed by an Israeli tank shell in Gaza despite clearly displaying “TV-Press” on his flak jacket and nearby vehicle.
Two Palestinian children – Ahmad Farajallah and Ghassan Khaled Abu ‘Ataiwi – were also killed in the attack that killed Shana and several other people were also injured. Shana and the two children were killed by a “flechette” shell containing up to 5,000 5cm-long steel darts (or flechettes) that spread over an area as big as a football pitch when fired. These munitions are notoriously imprecise and should never be used in areas populated with civilians. In this case the Israeli army later wrote to Reuters saying it had investigated the incident saying the decision to attack the journalist was “sound”.
So far this year more than 420 Palestinians (including some 80 children) have been killed by Israeli forces, and 30 Israelis killed by Palestinian groups. Most of these deaths (some 385) occurred in Gaza. Amnesty International remains concerned at a widespread failure to bring people to justice for unlawful killings.
Kate Allen added:
“Amnesty condemns in the strongest terms all killings and other attacks by Palestinian armed groups against Israeli civilians.
“However, while Palestinians who commit such attacks are tried by Israeli military courts and given heavy sentences (with many also being assassinated by Israeli forces), Israeli soldiers responsible for unlawful killings and other attacks against unarmed Palestinian civilians almost always act with impunity.”
Amnesty International UK media information:
Neil Durkin: 020 7033 1547, firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Ballinger: 020 7033 1548, email@example.com
Out of hours: 07721 398984, www.amnesty.org.uk