(18 January 2017) The death of Qusay al-Amoor amounts to an extrajudicial killing


On 16 January 2017, 17-year-old Qusay Hassan al-Amoor was killed by the Israeli occupying forces in the Bethlehem town of Tuqu’. A medical professional at the Beit Jala Government Hospital revealed that he was hit by four 0.22 caliber bullets, two in the chest – one perforating the heart – one in the hip and one in the leg.

The Israeli army stated that “violent riots” had erupted in Tuqu’, claiming that hundreds of Palestinian youth had thrown stones at the Israeli border police. The army claimed that the reason for killing Qusay was his role as the main instigator of the clashes.

However, a video filmed by Palestinian journalist Hisham Abu Shaqrah that emerged hours after the killing provides evidence contradicting Israeli accounts and raises concerns about the adherence of the Israeli forces to the central tenets of international law.[1] The video begins moments after the shooting. The opening shot shows Israeli soldiers running towards the body from an approximate distance of around 100 meters. When the soldiers reach Qusay, one falls heavily on top of him before helping the others roll him over roughly. The soldiers then lift him by his arms and legs and began to carry him rapidly down the hill, displaying a complete lack of consideration for his human dignity or his traumatic injuries. At several points they drag his body through the dirt or allow his head to bounce against it. They can also be seen dropping him completely.  

At the moment of writing it has not been clarified whether al-Amoor was instantly killed or if he was still alive when he was dragged by the Israeli soldiers. However, a medical source at the Beit Jala Governmental Hospital where al-Amoor’s body was admitted confirmed that one of the bullets perforated the boy’s heart and that this is lethal.

Extrajudicial Killing

An extrajudicial killing is the “unlawful and deliberate killing carried out by order of a state actor, or with the state’s complicity or acquiescence.”[2] According to international law, lethal force can only be used as a measure of last resort, and it must always be proportional and necessary. A law enforcement officer can only use firearms against a person under imminent threat of death or serious injury. That is, they can only shoot to kill if it is required to save a life, which would make the use of lethal force proportional - and only if there are no other means available or less extreme means are insufficient to prevent the threat to life, which means lethal force is necessary.[3]

In the case of the killing of Qusay al-Amoor, both army statements and eyewitness testimonies do not mention any weapons being used by the youth in the clashes, stating only that they were throwing stones at the Israeli forces. Abu Shaqrah’s video shows that when soldiers apprehended al-Amoor no firearms are found with him. The video also shows that seconds after al-Amoor was shot, soldiers were running towards the motionless youth from an approximate distance of 100 meters away. 

Hisham Abu Shaqrah testified that al-Amoor was sitting on the ground at the time of his killing, not throwing stones.

“Qusay was sitting between olive trees, you know how guys are, he was just watching the soldiers. I even noticed him sitting there and the idea of filming him crossed my mind but I don't know why I just decided not to. Only a few seconds after looking at him the Israeli forces shot him three or four times. The soldier who shot him was not in danger at the time of the shooting, in fact, he was secured and safe. I actually sensed something happening, first the [Israeli military] jeeps started coming closer and closer [to the youth] and then this specific soldier, the sniper with the Ruger rifle [used to shoot 0.22 bullets] also started coming closer. I remember he was by the third jeep, then I saw him by the second jeep and he was by the first jeep when he shot Qusay.”

Taking into account the audiovisual evidence and eyewitness testimonies, it can be concluded that whether he was throwing stones at the soldiers or not, al-Amoor could not have presented a lethal threat to the well-protected Israeli border police from a distance of around 100 meters, and the use of live ammunition against him was therefore unjustified. Moreover, the Israeli army did not use any less extreme means to disperse the youth from the area and demonstrated an excessive use of force, according to eyewitnesses.

Impunity

The Israeli army claimed that they were not aware of any investigation being opened into the killing of Qusay al-Amoor.[4] At the time of his killing al-Amoor was the fourth Palestinian killed by the Israeli forces in 2017. In 2016, 112 Palestinians were killed at the hands of Israeli forces, several of them extrajudicially.[5] Israel continuously fails to investigate such actions or to prosecute members of its forces, which is the natural result of a growing culture of impunity that exists within the Israeli military. This is why recent Israeli actions towards Palestinian civilians cannot be considered as isolated incidents, but rather as the violent manifestations of a policy of lawlessness in which Israeli forces operate in repeat, and direct contravention of international law absent effective accountability.

The BADIL Resource Center demands that a comprehensive and independent investigation be launched into this killing as a matter of great urgency in order to identify those responsible and to hold them accountable to the full extent of international law. Moreover, BADIL demands that all third party state signatories to the Geneva Convention act - without delay - in full accordance with their obligation to ensure respect for the Conventions.

 


[1]#شاهد لحظة استشهاد الشاب قصي العمور في... - Hisham Abu Shaqrah | FacebookJanuary 16, 2017. Accessed January 18, 2017. https://www.facebook.com/abushaqrah/videos/10209261448751121/

[2] Amnesty International, Philippines: Over 1700 killings by unknown assassins and police indicate lawlessness, not crime control, Press Release, 24 August 2016. Available at: http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/press-releases/philippines-over-1700-killings-by-unknown-assassins-and-police-indicate-lawlessness-not-crime-contro

[3] Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, Eighth UN Congress on Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders, Havana, Cuba, 27 August- 27 September 1990, General Provision No. 9.

[4] Patel, Yumna. "'They have destroyed me': Mother grieves as slain Palestinian teen laid to rest." Maan News Agency. January 17, 2017. Accessed January 18, 2017. http://maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=774975

[5]  "Israeli forces shoot, kill Palestinian teen during clashes in Tuqu." Maan News Agency. January 16, 2017. Accessed January 18, 2017. http://maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=774960; "Israel/OPT: Pattern of unlawful killings reveals shocking disregard for human life." Amnesty International. September 28, 2016. Accessed January 18, 2017. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/09/israel-opt-pattern-of-unlawful-killings-reveals-shocking-disregard-for-human-life/