Exceeding Use of Firearms is Crime: PCHR Calls for holding Accountable Those Responsible for the killing of Al-Sha’er
‘Awad Saleem al-Sha’er (32), from Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, who was detained by the Border Security Service, was killed after security officers opened fire at him, claiming that he attempted to flee while they were searching his farm. The Palestinian Ministry of Interior in Gaza stated in a brief statement that it opened an investigation into the incident. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) expresses its deep concern over the incident and calls upon the Attorney General to publish the results in public in order to identify the circumstances of the killing of al-Sha’er , who was directly shot to the back by one of the security officers.
According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 09:40 on Sunday, 19 November 2017, the Border Security Service brought ‘Awad al-Sha’er , whose hands and feet were tied, to his empty poultry farm in order to search it. The farm is in Kherbit al-‘Adas neighborhood, north of Rafah. During the searching, a security officer untied ‘Awad; in the meantime, ‘Awad attempted to flee and ran about 20 meters away. The security officers then fired 2 live bullets in the air to stop him while the 3rd bullet hit his back.
An eyewitness said to PCHR’s fieldworker that, one of the security officers lied down on the ground and then directly opened fire at ‘Awad. As a result, ‘Awad was hit with a live bullet, which entered the back and exited the chest, and then fell onto the ground.’Awad’s relatives, who were in the area, attempted to take him by an ambulance to the hospital, but the security officers opened fire into the air. However, ‘Awad’s relatives took him by a car to Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah, where he dead upon arrival.
Following the incident, outrageous members of the victim’s family burned a vehicle belonging to the Border Security Service in front of Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital. They also damaged the emergency department contents. As a result, the medical services in the department were suspended.
The Interior Ministry published a press statement on its website ”the detainee was killed while trying to flee”, adding that the victim had been arrested on grounds of smuggling weapons and contraband through the Gaza southern borders.
According to PCHR’s follow-up, al-Sha’er was detained on 13 November 2017 after the Border Security Service arrested him and his brother in addition to 3 other workers while they were in front of a tunnel owned by al-Sha’er in al-Salam neighborhood, south of Rafah, under the pretext of smuggling weapons and contraband through the tunnel. The detainees were taken to the office of the Border Security Service along the Egyptian borders. The detainees were released on the next day except al-Sha’er. Al-Sha’er’s relatives claimed in a statement they issued after his death that he was tortured during his detention in the border Service office. They added that al-Sha’er was illegally detained as he was not brought before the Public Prosecution.
PCHR emphasizes that opening fire at a person because he attempted to run away is prohibited in principle. PCHR also stresses that security officers can only use firearms against a person when defending themselves or others and in a non- fatal spot. Moreover, opening fire should be by a qualified person to guarantee that it does not exceed the principle of proportionality, which in this case should be limited to paralyzing the fugitive’s movement and reducing the inflicting harm as much as possible. PCHR emphasizes that exceeding these limits that would lead to losing the detainee’s life is considered a serious violation, which might amount to a willful murder and due to which the perpetrator should be tried and punished according to the law.
In light of the above, PCHR calls upon the Attorney General to open a serious investigation, that would lead to real accountability, and publish the results in public.
PCHR also stresses on the need to investigate the allegations of the victim’s family about torturing al-Sha’er during his detention at the Border Security Service office. Moreover, PCHR calls upon the Attorney General to open a serious investigation into this and punish the perpetrators.
PCHR calls upon the security services to abide by the standards of using firearms and standards relevant to use of force and to respect the principle of proportionality.
Furthermore, PCHR stresses that the security services should abide by the international human rights standards regulating the use of force and firearms, particularly the 1979 Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials of 1990.