UN rights experts slam Israel's 'disproportionate use of force'

Geneva (AFP) –


UN rights experts urged Israel Monday to halt all excessive force against Palestinian protesters and called for an "impartial, independent investigation" into troop violence that has left dozens dead.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it was "alarmed by the disproportionate use of force displayed by the Israeli security forces against Palestinian demonstrators."

The independent experts released their statement as 16 Palestinians, including a 14-year-old, were killed by Israeli fire on along the Gaza border as a wave of mass protests and clashes erupted over Monday's transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem.

It follows weeks of unrest along the Gaza border, with Monday's toll raising the overall number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire to 70 since March 30.

Thousands of others have been injured, with the military facing widespread criticism over its use of live fire.

The 18-member UN committee said it was "gravely concerned that many of the persons who died or were injured were reportedly posing no imminent threat at the time they were shot."

It also voiced alarm at "many reports according to which Israeli authorities have denied and continue to deny access to urgent medical treatment to injured Palestinians."

The experts said the deaths and injuries were occurring "in a context marked by the 50-year occupation of the Palestinian territory" as well as a more than decade-long crippling blockade imposed on Gaza.

They said they were "deeply worried about persisting discriminatory practises against Palestinians by Israel," and lamented "the absence of adequate accountability mechanisms" for troops accused of violations.

Although Israel has publicly announced an investigation into events at the Gaza border, "an independent and impartial investigation has not yet taken place," they said.

The committee urged Israel to quickly initiate such a probe, and also to "counter the tide of racism and xenophobia in public discourse ... (and) to combat racist acts and manifestations of racist hate speech that particularly target Palestinians."