4 February 1996
Khalid Al Qidrah
Palestinian National Authority
Dear Mr Al Qidrah
Request for investigation into the killings on February3 1996 of Imad Othman Abdul Rahman al-Araj and Aymen Deeb Othman al-Razaina
The Palestinian National Authority Chairman, Yasser Arafat has made a commitment to uphold the rule of law and to protect human rights in the autonomous areas. The protection of the lives of individuals is one of the fundamental principles of human rights; the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights is deeply concerned that, the killings of Imad Othman Abdul Rahman al-Araj, (26 years old and resident of Sheikh Radwan), and Aymen Deeb Othman al-Razaina (25 years old and resident of Jabalia Refugee Camp), violates these standards.
The information we have suggests that the killings may have been carried out in a manner which is unlawful. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights requests that an independent inquiry be urgently carried out in order to explain the killings of these two people.
The information we have is as follows:
i. The family of the late Aymen al-Razaina informed us that he was wanted by the Palestinian security forces, including the secret service and preventive security.
ii. We understand also that his brother was arrested and that his release was conditional on his brother Aymen’s surrender to the Palestinian security services.
iii. Eye-witnesses state that around 13.00 hours on 3 February 1996 there appeared to be a large presence of undercover secret service operatives in the northern part of Shati Refugee Camp in the vicinity of the house of Riyad Saleh Ali Abdul Hashish, (36 years old).
iv. Around 16.30 hours Riyad Hashish left his home with his young son (12 years old) and was seen getting into a Fiat 127 and began to drive away.
v. The vehicle was then stopped, seized by the undercove operatives and it appears that he and his son were arrested.
vi. Around 10 minutes later at 16.40 hours the same Fiat 127 was seen being driven by undercover operatives with Riyad Hashish’s son in the vehicle. Following the car were a number of other vehicles carrying security personnel and they were seen driving towards the house of Riyad Hashish.
vii. Between 8 and 10 undercover operatives entered Riyad Hashish’s house carrying automatic weapons and pistols. Inside the house there was an exchange between Hashish’s wife and the operatives, who demanded that the rooms of the house be opened (the house had 4 doors: 3 leading onto bedrooms and 1 leading onto a study), before ordering her to leave the house.
viii. Witnesses claim that they heard members of the undercover operatives asking for a surrender. Witness accounts disagree on whether or not the requests to surrender were refused. At this point witness accounts concur that there was a sound of two bullets, which were followed by prolonged and heavy shooting inside the house. These events took place within the space of a few minutes.
Law enforcement officials must act within certain legal safeguards and procedures in order to ensure protection of life. However on the basis of the above information we are not assured that the killings of Imad Othman Abdul Rahman al-Araj and Aymen Deeb Othman al-Razaina was justified and that the proper legal safeguards were employed by the security services personnel to protect the lives of these individuals:
i. The facts of these killings must be assessed against certain standards, and where these are exceeded the killings will constitute an arbitrary violation of these individuals’ right to life. The intentional lethal use of firearms can only be justified if it was absolutely necessary to protect life.
ii. If it were possible to effect an arrest then this should have been done. The Palestinian judicial system is both independent and effective. It is only through this system that such persons are assured of the guarantees of a free and fair trial so that their guilt can be determined and they can be appropriately punished within the rule of law. But if it was possible to effect an arrest, in order that these two individuals could have been brought before the court system, then these actions constitute extra-judicial killings and thus are a very serious breach of the rule of law.
Accordingly the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights demands that:
i. A public and genuine inquiry be carried out into the actions of the security force which lead to the death of these two individuals;
ii. the results of the investigation be published, and those responsible for the killing be punished;
iii. proper legal procedures and a code of conduct be established which can provide safeguards to ensure that incidents such as these killings are not repeated.
Raji Sourani – Advocate
Director of Palestinian Centre for Human Rights