Condemning killing of Golan Heights protesters, UN rights chief calls for inquiries
7 June 2011 – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today condemned the killing this week of civilian protestors in the occupied Golan Heights, and called for Israel and Syria to conduct “independent, impartial, transparent and thorough investigations” of the incidents.
Navi Pillay is “deeply troubled by reports of use of live fire by Israeli security forces against civilians protesting along the ceasefire line between the occupied Golan Heights and Syria on 5 June,” the Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) said in a press statement.
“Between 30 and 40 protestors have reportedly been killed by Israeli security forces in the past three weeks,” she said. “The Government of Israel has a duty to ensure that its security personnel avoid the use of excessive force.
“However difficult the circumstances, the use of live ammunition against allegedly unarmed protestors, resulting in large numbers of deaths and injuries, inevitably raises the question of unnecessary and excessive use of force.”
According to media reports, the 5 June incident occurred as protestors called for an end to the occupation of the Golan, as they marked the anniversary of the 1967 War during which Israel occupied the area. The media reports suggested that more than 20 civilians were killed and hundreds injured as a result of Israeli gunfire.
Other reports suggest some of the casualties may have been caused by the detonation of landmines buried on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line.
Ms. Pillay also expressed concern over allegations that civilians were encouraged by the Syrian authorities to protest in areas where landmines are located.
“Syrian authorities have an obligation to ensure that civilians are prevented from entering areas where landmines are planted,” she said.
“Especially given conflicting allegations on the use of Molotov cocktails by protesters and on whether or not all necessary precautions were taken before the use of live ammunition by security forces, Ms. Pillay called on both sides to carry out independent, impartial, transparent and thorough investigations into the events of 5 June,” OHCHR said.
Yesterday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for maximum restraint by all sides after the incident, and warned that it threatens the long-held ceasefire between Israel and Syria.
“The Secretary-General regrets the loss of life, and extends his condolences to the families of the victims,” his spokesperson said in a statement. “He condemns the use of violence and all actions intended to provoke violence.”
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