UN Human Rights Office: Sentence Handed to Hebron Shooter Is 'Unacceptable'

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Soldier Elor Azaria in military court, shortly after he was convicted of manslaughter.
Soldier Elor Azaria in military court, shortly after he was convicted of manslaughter. Credit: Miriam Alstar / Flash 90

The United Nations' human rights office said on Friday that the 18-month sentence handed down to Israeli soldier Elor Azaria for killing a prone Palestinian assailant was "excessively lenient" and "unacceptable."

"This case risks undermining confidence in the justice system and reinforcing the culture of impunity," UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a news briefing in Geneva. 

Azaria was handed an 18 month prison sentence, a year's probation and a demotion to the rank of private on Tuesday after a military court found him guilty of manslaughter. The maximum sentence for manslaughter is 20 years.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett reacted to the UN statement with a sarcastic tweet: "We really missed your input on the subject." Following Azaria's sentencing, he called for the soldier's pardon, saying "Elor was sent to protect Israelis at the height of a wave of Palestinian terror attacks. He cannot go to jail or we will all pay the price."

Azaria, a medic in the Kfir infantry brigade, shot and killed Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, a Palestinian attacker, in Hebron on March 24, 2016. Sharif was lying prone, wounded and immobile on the ground.

The incident began when Sharif and another Palestinian attacked a soldier from Azaria's unit with knives. They were shot. Azaria arrived on the scene a few minutes later. The shooting was captured on video by a Palestinian human rights activist and widely distributed.

To be considered for a pardon, Azaria will have to submit a detailed request to the president. In addition, before the president makes his decision, the IDF chief of staff, the chief military prosecutor, the head of the military personnel directorate and the defense minister would have to submit their legal opinions, a process that may take some time. President Reuven Rivlin has said in the past that "we have the best commanders, a standout chief of staff, and we need to listen to them and accept their decisions.

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