A condemnation of the brutal murder of Sa’d Al Atrash, and an urgent call for international protection.

Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation Palestinian General Union of People with Disability.

We (Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation BASR and the Palestinian General Union of Persons with Disabilities GUPWD), strongly condemn the assassination of Sa’d Al Atrash, who was shot by the Israeli military forces and left to bleed to death in Hebron on Monday the 26th of October 2015.

Sa’d – a beneficiary of BASR’s Economic Empowerment Program – was a 19 year-old man with Epilepsy. He joined GUPWD with the aim of defending the rights of his fellow Palestinians with disabilities. He was actively involved in several advocacy initiatives of the Hebron branch of GUPWD to promote the right of persons with disabilities to work, to access information and public transportation.

In this struggle, Sa’d was completely committed, but his efforts to advocate a better quality of life for marginalized persons with disabilities were cruelly cut short by a bullet fired by an Israeli soldier for the false claim of attempting to stab him. According to eyewitnesses, Sa’d was called by the Israeli soldiers while passing by; and as he stopped, he was surrounded by 4 soldiers who shot him dead with several bullets.

Sa’d had a great deal to live for. During the career counseling phase, BASR economic empowerment team were immediately taken by the passion and enthusiasm shown by Sa’d towards his own personal and professional development and by his desire to take ownership of his future. As a result, Sa’d was registered at a vocational training center in Hebron, where he began to study for a diploma in electrical maintenance. He was so delighted to start this new chapter in his life, and began the program in September with complete commitment.

A week before his martyrdom, Sa’d discussed his future plans at length with the program team. Sa’d was not the first Palestinian with a disability to have been targeted by Israel. The ongoing occupation of Palestine has resulted in numerous deaths among Palestinians with disabilities, but also in countless injuries, arrests and traumas.

Since the beginning of October, 67 Palestinians have been ruthlessly shot dead, including 14 children, and more than 7200 injured. The assassination of Sa’d, therefore, represents not just a grave personal tragedy for his family and friends, but starkly demonstrates the constant threat posed by Israel’s occupation to Palestinian civilians, particularly those with disabilities. This threat comes from Israel’s regular and unlawful use of lethal force against Palestinian youth – which takes place against a backdrop of a range of Israeli-perpetrated human rights violations inflicted upon Palestinians in general – as well as the restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation on the ability of Palestinian medical authorities to provide emergency services to those who need them.

Accordingly, we wish not merely to express our deep concern at Sa’d’s assassination, but to highlight that this assassination constitutes a flagrant violation of an individual’s right to life as enshrined under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Israel is a signatory. Israel, as highlighted in recent reports from a wide range of human rights organizations, is demonstrably unable or unwilling to uphold its protective duties as an occupying power towards the Palestinian populace, as demanded under international law. We therefore call for an urgent response from all relevant actors, including the provision of international protection to the Palestinian people, particularly those with disabilities.