UN human rights office decries Israeli sentence of soldier as ‘excessively lenient’

(JTA) – The United Nations’ human rights office said it is “deeply disturbed” by the 18-month prison term given to an Israeli soldier who killed a wounded Palestinian terrorist after he had been subdued.

Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, criticized the sentence for manslaughter as “excessively lenient” and “unacceptable” on Friday in Geneva, Reuters reported.

“This case risks undermining confidence in the justice system and reinforcing the culture of impunity,” Shamdasani said.

Israel, the United States and the previous secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, have accused the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other forums at the United Nations of pursuing an anti-Israeli bias that singles out the Jewish state for criticism.

The soldier, Elor Azaria, was sentenced by a military tribunal on Tuesday. He has remained in custody since March 2016.

The family of Abdul Fattah al-Sharif, the 21-year-old Palestinian who was shot and killed as he lay wounded following an attempted stabbing attack on Israeli soldiers in Hebron last March, called Azaria’s trial a “farce.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that he wants to see Azaria pardoned.

“I am still in favour of pardoning Private Azaria,” Netanyahu told reporters accompanying him on an official visit to Australia, Israel’s Channel 10 reported. Netanyahu had already spoken out in favour of such a pardon even before the sentence.

A number of other government ministers have also called for a pardon by Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin.

A poll published Wednesday by the Maariv daily found that 69 per cent of Israelis support a pardon, with 56 per cent saying the punishment was too severe.

Azaria maintained he shot the terrorist, who had not been frisked, for fear he might detonate an explosive vest. The military court judges dismissed the claim as not credible.

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