UN denounces Israel’s excessive use of force against Palestinian worshipers in Jerusalem
Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva: 29 June 2022
UN experts expressed their grave concerns about recent reports of excessive use of force and allegations of mass arbitrary arrests of Palestinian Muslims, and other worshippers, in the Old City of Jerusalem, as well as unjustified or discriminatory restrictions placed by Israel on access to places of worship during the Ramadan and other religious celebrations.
Intense clashes in the Old City:
The experts explained in a memorandum sent to the Israeli authorities on April 29, 2022, which has not been responded to yet, that since April 2, 2022, the Israeli police intensified their presence in and around the Old City of Jerusalem. From 2 to 7 April 2022, Israeli Forces reportedly used excessive force to disperse dozens of Palestinians gathering at or close to Damascus Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City at night hours after the Tarawih prayers. During these interventions, a total of 38 people were arrested and subsequently released, most of whom on the condition that they stay away from the area for a limited time period.
The experts emphasized that during those clashes, many worshipers, who did not pose any direct or indirect threat, were reported to have been injured. At least 161 people were treated for injuries, including women and journalists, as well as at least 27 children and 10 Al Waqf employees.
Discriminatory restrictions on access to places of worship:
The experts stated that Israel placed unjustified or discriminatory restrictions on access to places of worship, as on April 17, 2022, after dawn prayers, the Israeli occupation forces raided the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and used force to expel Palestinian worshipers. During Passover, every day between April 15 and April 21, 2022, it was reported that Israeli forces also raided Al-Aqsa Mosque. Moreover, the Israeli police decided to restrict Christians’ access to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, in the Old City of Jerusalem, during the Saturday of Holy Fire.
UN concerns about the excessive use of force:
The experts expressed grave concern about the unnecessary or excessive use of force by Israeli forces against peaceful worshipers, and other persons, in the Old City of Jerusalem, as well as allegations of arbitrary arrests of individuals and preventing the exercise of their right to worship and assembly on the basis of their religion or belief.
The experts also expressed concern that violations of international standards regarding the use of force by law enforcement officials, in particular the basic principles of legality, precaution, necessity, non-discrimination, proportionality, and accountability, created an environment of intimidation for Palestinians, and other individuals, who wish to worship peacefully in the Old City.
UN demands from the Israeli authorities:
The experts called on the Israeli authorities to provide information on any investigations into the aforementioned allegations regarding the Israeli forces’ use of unnecessary or excessive force against Palestinians or other worshippers.
The experts also called on Israel to provide information on the factual and legal basis for the arrests that took place on April 15, 2022, and the following days at Al-Aqsa compound.
The experts also requested information on measures taken to ensure non-discriminatory access for all religious groups to places of worship in the Old City of Jerusalem, including during Ramadan and other religious holidays and celebrations, and an explanation of measures taken to de-escalate religious tensions and promote respect of pluralism and diversity of religious practices in the next weeks, in view of the end of the Ramadan.