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Pillay condemns killing of protestors in occupied Golan Heights and urges investigations

7 June 2011

GENEVA – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Tuesday she was 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.

“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.”

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. Reports have 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.

The High Commissioner urged Israel to comply with its obligations under international human rights and international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians.

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 protestors and on whether or not all necessary precautions were taken before the use of live ammunition by security forces, Pillay called on both sides to carry out independent, impartial, transparent and thorough investigations into the events of 5 June. She also reminded Israel of its obligation to carry out investigations into the events surrounding the protests of 15 May in the occupied Palestinian territory, the occupied Golan Heights and on the Lebanese border, which resulted in the loss of 15 civilian lives.

"Where there is evidence that crimes were committed, prosecution and appropriate punishment must follow," Pillay added.

The High Commissioner echoed the UN Secretary-General’s call for maximum restraint on all sides.

ENDS

OHCHR Country Page – Israel http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/ILIndex.aspx

OHCHR Country Page – Syrian Arab Republic http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/SYIndex.aspx

For more information or interviews, please contact spokesperson Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 or rcolville@ohchr.org ) or press officers: Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 or rshamdasani@ohchr.org ) or Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 or xcelaya@ohchr.org )

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