- Extra-judicial killings are indefensible, morally abhorrent,
and illegal under international laws and norms. Article 23b of the 1907
Hague Regulations prohibits "assassination, proscription, or outlawry
of an enemy, or putting a price upon an enemy's head, as well as offering
a reward for any enemy 'dead or alive.' "
- Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(UDHR) states that "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security
of person." UDHR also recognizes the "inherent dignity (and
the) equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family."
- So do "just war" principles that rule out gratuitous
violence, assassinations, especially if premeditated, war against civilians,
and so on, despite the difficulties of distinguishing between combatants,
those who've laid down their arms, and the innocent in times of war -
let alone dealing with "terrorism" or what one analyst calls
the "twilight zone between war and peace." Others say it's justifiable
resistance or "blowback" in response to state- sponsored violence
and other crimes of war and against humanity.
- In 1980, the Sixth United Nations Congress on the Prevention
of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders condemned "the practice of
killing and executing political opponents or suspected offenders carried
out by armed forces, law enforcement or other governmental agencies or
by paramilitary or political groups" acting with the support of official
forces or agencies.
- The General Assembly also acted in response to arbitrary
executions and politically motivated killings. On December 15, 1980, it
adopted resolution 35/172 in which it urged member states to abide by
the provisions of Articles 6, 14 and 15 of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political rights that cover the right to life and various
safeguards guaranteeing fair and impartial judicial proceedings.
- The first principle of the 1989 UN Principles on the
Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary
- "Governments shall prohibit by law all extra-legal,
arbitrary and summary executions and shall ensure that any such executions
are recognized as offences under their criminal laws, and are punishable
by appropriate penalties which take into account the seriousness of such
offenses. Exceptional circumstances, including a state of war or threat
of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency may
not be invoked as a justification of such executions. (They) shall not
be carried out under any circumstances including, but not limited to,
situations of internal armed conflict, excessive or illegal use of force
by a public official or other person acting in an official capacity or
by a person acting at the instigation, or with the consent or acquiescence
of such person, and situations in which deaths occur in custody. This
prohibition shall prevail over decrees issued by governmental authority."
- These articles and provisions apply to occupied civilian
populations, and the Fourth Geneva Convention and its Article 3 affords
ones (like the Palestinians) under foreign occupation special protection.
It covers all actions related to "Violence to life and person, Murder
of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture." In addition,
"The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without
previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording
all the judicial guarantees....recognized as indispensable by civilized
- Its Article 32 states: "the High Contracting Parties
specifically agree that each of them is prohibited from taking any measure
of such a character as to cause the physical suffering or extermination
of protected persons in their hands. This prohibition applies not only
to murder, torture, corporal punishment, mutilation and medical or scientific
experiments not necessitated by the medical treatment of a protected person,
but also to any other measures of brutality whether applied by civilian
or military agents."
- Its Article 85 refers to "Grave Breaches" and
defines them as "Acts committed willfully and causing death or serious
injury to body or health....making the civilian population or individual
civilians the object of attack (or)launching an indiscriminate attack
affecting the civilian population or civilian objects...."
- The 2002 International Criminal Court's Rome Statute
also defines these grave violations as war crimes that include (in its
- -- "Grave" Geneva Convention breaches;
- -- "Willing killing...."
- -- "Intentionally launching an attack" knowing
it will "cause incidental loss of life...."
- -- "Killing or wounding" combatants who've
laid down their arms;
- -- extrajudicial killings; and
- -- "Killing or wounding treacherously a combatant
- In 1982, the UN established the Special Rapporteur on
extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. It was one of several
mandates to address disappearances, torture, assassinations and many other
human rights abuses and violations of international law.
- Philip Alston currently holds the post to investigate
extrajudicial killings, hold governments responsible for committing them,
failing to prevent them, or for not responding when they're carried out
by others. In May 2008, he issued the latest report of his "principle
activities" in 2007 through the first three months of 2008. As of
March 2008, he requested permission from 32 countries and Occupied Palestine
to visit. In spite of "proceed(ing) with plans for a visit,"
Israel "so far failed to respond affirmatively." The Palestinian
Authority (PA) "issued an invitation."
- The US Position On Extrajudicial Killings
- In 1976, President Gerald Ford signed Executive Order
(EO) 11905 banning the practice against foreign leaders in peacetime and
by implication against others. Yet Reagan's Defense Secretary, Caspar
Weinberger, argued that only "murder by treacherous means" is
forbidden so assassinations are acceptable as long as they're unrelated
- George Bush then swept aside subtleties, reversed Ford's
EO, and authorized the CIA to assassinate Osama bin Laden, his supporters,
and publicly stated that bin Laden "was wanted, dead or alive."
His Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, concurred and called killing
"terrorists" an act of "self-defense."
- In June 2008, Philip Alston visited the US. He met with
federal and state officials, judges and civil society groups in New York,
Washington, Alabama and Texas. He also conducted a fact-finding tour
of US prison and detention facilities and presented his findings at a
June 30 press conference. He sharply criticized the Bush administration,
the country's flawed judicial system, and continued rule of law violations.
- -- racism in the application of the death penalty;
- -- the lack of transparency in Guantanamo prisoner deaths;
- -- a lack of information about Iraq and Afghanistan civilian
deaths; the unwillingness of Department of Defense officials and others
to cooperate; his concern about serious human rights violations as well;
- -- the refusal of the US Justice Department to prosecute
mercenary contractors (like Blackwater Worldwide) who commit unlawful
killings. Or the US military.
- Israeli Extrajudicial Killings
- Throughout its history, Israel willfully and systematically
committed premeditated extrajudicial killings of Palestinians and other
Arabs as official state policy - carried out with explicit high-level
political, judicial and military authorization and allegedly in "self-defense"
against individuals threatening Israeli security. Government officials
even admit that certain persons are targeted, and Dan Haluts, former Israeli
Army Chief of Staff, once told the Washington Post (in August 2006) that
"Targeted killing is the most important method in the fight against
'terrorism.' " In other words, premeditated murder is acceptable
as long as it's properly classified.
- In May 2007 on Israeli Army Radio, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer,
former Infrastructure Minister, defended the practice and said: "We
decided to carry out more physical liquidation operations against (Palestinian)
'terrorists"....I think this will eliminate the damage caused to
Israeli territory due to the launching of Palestinian rockets."
- Almost never do Israeli government or military officials
show evidence that targeted individuals acted violently or threatened
Jewish citizens. Simply calling them "terrorists" is justification
enough - to kill them extrajudicially, with no recourse to due process
or respect for international law that bans the practice for any reason.
- "My crime was to protest Israeli assassinations"
- On January 5, 2007, the London Guardian headlined that
comment in reporting on Jewish activist Tali Fahima's first interview
following her release from Israeli incarceration. Sitting with her arms
handcuffed to a chair's legs 16 hours a day, her captors said they wanted
to teach her to be a "good Jew." She was imprisoned for 30 months
for traveling to the West Bank, "meeting an enemy agent and translating
a simple army document."
- She explained and said her crimes were for refusing to
work with Shin Bet (Israel's secret service), going to see the Palestinians,
then protesting the Israeli assassinations policy. She was kept in isolation
for nine months. Finally, at the urging of her lawyer, she struck a plea
bargain for a shorter sentence, and ended up being "unbowed"
by her experience. She learned how Sin Bet "terroriz (es)" people,
both Palestinians and Jews. "About the nature of the government,
how they do not want us to see what is going on in our name."
- On August 8, 2004, she was arrested and placed under
administrative detention in September. In December, she was charged with
"assistance to the enemy at time of war." It was trumped up
and false. In January 2005, the Tel Aviv district court ruled that she
should be placed under house arrest during her trial. Jerusalem's high
court overruled it on the grounds that she "identifie(d) with an
ideological goal." In December 2005, she pled guilty under her plea
bargain to meeting and aiding an enemy agent and entering Palestinian
territory. In January 2006, she was released.
- She felt compelled to make regular Jenin visits. Talk
to hundreds of people, including Palestinian resisters, and for the first
time heard their point of view and how hard things are under occupation.
For showing compassion and disagreeing with Israeli policies, she was
imprisoned for nearly 30 months on false charges. Not even Jews are safe
from harsh state retribution against anyone showing defiance or daring
to resist injustice.
- The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Documentation
of Israeli Targeted Assassinations
- The (1995 established) Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
(PCHR) functions independently in Gaza and enjoys "Consultative Status"
with the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It's also an affiliate
of the International Commission of Jurists-Geneva, the International Federation
for Human Rights (FIDH) in Paris, the Euro- Mediterranean Human Rights
Network in Copenhagen, the Arab Organization for Human Rights in Cairo,
and the International Legal Assistance Corsortium (ILAC) in Stockholm.
- Palestinian lawyers and human rights activists established
- -- "protect human rights and promote the rule of
- -- create, develop and promote a democratic culture in
Palestinian society; and
- -- work for Palestinian self-determination and independence
"in accordance with international law and UN resolutions."
- PCHR issues documents, fact sheets, and reports like
its quarterly accounts of Israeli extrajudicial executions in the Occupied
Palestinian Territories (OPT). Its latest one is from April through June,
and a more comprehensive one covered August 2006 through its latest June
- PCHR states: It's "investigated and documented these
(killings) in depth (and) concluded that the IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces)
have consistently acted with utter disregard for the lives of (mostly
innocent) Palestinian civilians in the OPT, and that IOF have continued
to carry out state sanctioned extra-judicial executions, (in violation
of) international human rights law....in the overwhelming majority of
cases....suspects could have been arrested, but no efforts were made....and
they were instead extra- judicially executed" - according to official
- The Human Toll
- Since the second Intifada's September 2000 inception
through June 30, 2008, and excluding all other Palestinian killings, the
IOF carried out 755 OPT executions. Victims included 521 extrajudicially
targeted and 233 bystanders, including 71 children and 20 women. In Gaza,
405 were killed. Another 350 in the West Bank. The methods used included:
- -- F-16, unmanned drone, and attack helicopter-launched
air-to- surface missiles; tank shelling; missile launchers and gunboats;
- -- Israeli military undercover units disguised as Palestinians;
first established during the first (1987 - 1993) Intifada; they became
more active during the second one; could easily have arrested suspects
but instead killed them at short range; and
- -- IOF targeted house ambushes in the West Bank.
- Most often, civilians are attacked in their homes, vehicles,
on streets and at workplaces. Sometimes entire families are killed, including
children, women, the elderly, and infirm, and a July 2002 incident was
typical. It targeted Salah Shehada, an Ezzedeen Al- Qassam Brigades (the
Hamas armed wing) leader.
- The IOF knew he was with his wife and children. That
they lived in a densely populated residential area, and former Israeli
Army Chief of Staff, Moshe Ya'alon, admitted that he knew Shehada's wife
and daughter "were close to him during the implementation of the
assassination....and there was no way out of conducting the operation
despite their presence." An Israeli F-16 bombed his home, and completely
destroyed it. Two neighboring ones also and damaged 32 others.
- The toll was horrific - 77 injured civilians; 16 others
killed, including Shehada, his wife, daughter, assistant, eight children,
(one a two-month old baby), and two elderly men and two women. It was
an indefensible criminal act of wanton murder.
- In May 2007, an air-to-surface missile targeted the Al-Hayia
family at his eastern Gaza meeting hall. It scored a direct hit. Killed
were seven members of his family, another Palestinian and the object
of the attack - Sameh Saleh Farawana, a Hamas activist. In addition, three
others were wounded.
- In July 2006, air-to-surface missiles destroyed Dr. Nabil
Abdol Latif Abu Selmeya's home in Gaza City's Al-Sheikh Radwan district.
He, his wife, and seven children were killed. In addition, 34 bystanders
were injured, including 5 children and six women. At least 15 neighboring
homes were also damaged in an operation Israelis said targeted Mohammed
Al-Deif, Hamas' armed wing leader and apparently Israel's most wanted
- In January 2008, an air-to-surface missile struck a civilian
vehicle carrying three members of the Al-Yazji family killing Mohammed
Al-Yazji, his five-year old son, and his 40-year old brother. Three bystanders
were also injured. IOF sources later admitted the attack was in error
and was meant for another vehicle carrying Palestinian resistance activists.
- In August 2007, a Gaza operation near the Rafah International
Crossing Point killed two civilians, injured 12 others and slightly wounded
three targeted activists who escaped. Moments later, another vehicle was
struck nearby killing the driver, a civilian bystander, and wounding 12
others, including a child.
- In November 2006 in eastern Gaza, a vehicle was struck
carrying Bassel Sha'aban Ubeid, an Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades member.
He and a colleague were killed. In addition, five Amen family members
were injured, including two children.
- Throughout the reporting period, there were many more
killings in Gaza and the West Bank. In November 2006, four Jenin civilians.
In February 2007, three others in Jenin. In March 2008, four Bethlehem
civilians. Many others throughout the Territories in Ramallah, Nablus,
Rafah, Khan Younis, Tul Karim, north, central and southern Gaza, and elsewhere
- against activists, resisters, civilians, women and children for the
crime of being Palestinians wanting self- determination, freedom, and respect
for their rights under international law. For their part, Israelis, with
world support and complicity, continue denying it to them repressively
- Extrajudicial Executions in the Latest Reporting Period
- April - June 2008
- During the period, the IOF conducted eight OPT assassinations
killing a total of 16 people, including two civilian bystanders. Two
operations were carried out in the West Bank. Six others in Gaza.
- On April 14, an air-to-surface missile killed Ibrahim
Mohanned Abu 'Olba, the National Resistance Brigades' (the Democratic
Front for the Liberation of Palestine's armed wing) leader in northern
Gaza. Two civilians were also injured, including a 15-year old boy. In
addition, a number of nearby houses were damaged.
- On April 15, an air-to-surface missile killed Abdullah
Mohammed al- Ghassain, an al-Quds Brigades' (the Islamic Jihad's armed
wing) activist in northern Gaza. Three others were also injured.
- On April 17, the IOF besieged a building in Qabatya village,
southeast of Jenin in the northern West Bank. They opened fire at a civilian
car, ordered people out of the building, and fired shells and demolished
it with a bulldozer. Two dead Palestinians were found inside.
- On April 20, an air-to-surface missile killed Nour al-Dibari
in Gaza. A second missile targeted a number of Palestinians who just
left a grocery shop. Its owner was seriously injured as well as his son.
At least one other Palestinian was hurt as well.
- On June 29, the IOF entered Tubas in the northern West
Bank and set a cemetery ambush for a group of Palestinian children there
throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at military vehicles. They opened
fire and killed one 16-year old from multiple gunshots to the chest and
- PCHR "asserts that the Government of Israel continues
to act recklessly, and with utter disregard for the human rights of the
Palestinian people, including (their) right to life" and safety.
Israel also fails "to meet its obligations under human rights law,
including the Fourth Geneva Convention." An Israeli government representative
wasn't available for comment.
- Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre
for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached