Human Rights in the Occupied Territories 2011

Human Rights in the Occupied Territories 2011
02. Not Rotten Apples
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    Officer points loaded weapon into face of Palestinian

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    B’Tselem documents hundreds of cases of violence and harassment

    Soldiers detain demonstrator in a-Nabi Saleh after funeral of Mustafa a-Tamimi, 11 December 2011. Photo: Anne Paq,

    Over the years, B'Tselem and other human rights organizations have documented hundreds of cases in which soldiers and police have slapped and kicked Palestinians, insulted and humiliated them, and delayed them at checkpoints for no reason. On occasion, more serious violence has also been exposed.

    Israeli officials evade responsibility for these cases by condemning the incidents and claiming that the perpetrators are “a few rotten apples” whose acts do not reflect military policy. In practice, the system does not make it unequivocally clear that any violence against Palestinians is forbidden, and many complaints have been handled in a token manner. The implicit message to security forces is that even if the system objects to these acts in principle, it does not intend to bring lawbreaking soldiers and police officers to justice.

    From September 2000 until the end of 2011, B’Tselem reported 473 cases  to the law-enforcement authorities in which B'Tselem's investigation raised the suspicion that security forces used violence against Palestinians. Soldiers were involved in about half of these cases, and police or Border Police were involved in the rest. In each case, B'Tselem wrote to the relevant body and demanded an investigation and prosecution of those responsible:

    • Of the 241 cases involving soldiers which B'Tselem sent to the Military Advocate General’s Corps, Military Police investigations were opened in 200 of the cases. However, the overwhelming majority of these - 134 cases - were closed without any measures being taken against the soldiers involved. Seven investigations led to filing of indictments, one of which was subsequently withdrawn. In another 18 cases, the MAG corps decided not to open an investigation. B'Tselem was not provided information on the handling of the other cases. 
    • B’Tselem sent 244 cases to the Department for the Investigation of Police concerning violence by police and Border Police officers. Information provided to B'Tselem indicates that an investigation was ordered in 146 of the cases, but fully 113 of them were closed without any measures being taken against those involved. In 12 of the cases, indictments were filed. In 77 cases, DIP decided not to open any investigation.  B'Tselem was not provided information on the handling of the remaining cases.  
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    Impediments to justice: Some cases go unreported

    Border policemen detain Palestinian demonstrator in the Shu’afat refugee camp, in East Jerusalem. Photo: ‘Amer ‘Awad, Reuters, 15 May 2011
    Many Palestinians do not bother to file a complaint against Israeli soldiers or police officers. Filing a complaint is cumbersome and may take many hours. Also when an MPIU investigator summons the complainant to give testimony, the complainant may have to wait hours at the entrance to the District Coordination and Liaison office (DCL). Many others, primarily Palestinians who enter Israel illegally, do not file complaints even in cases of severe violence, fearing they will be arrested while they file their complaint. Many others do not file complaints because they do not have faith that the Israeli criminal-justice system, which tends not to believe them and to protect those who harmed them, will bring them to justice. As a result, not all cases of violence are reported.
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    Soldiers beat and humiliate shepherd from the village of Kisan

    Nayaf ‘Abayat. Photo: Suha Zeid, B’Tselem

    Nayef ‘Abayat, 24, lives in Kisan, a village south of Bethlehem. In the 1980s and 1990s, a few settlements and outposts were built in this area, which was classified Area C under the Oslo Agreements, meaning Israel has control over both civil and security matters. In testimony he gave to B'Tselem, ‘Abayat said that many residents of Kisan, who earn a living raising sheep and goats, are frequently harassed by the military and by the settlements’ security coordinators, who keep them from entering areas adjacent to the settlements.

    On Friday, 4 March 2011, 'Abayat was grazing his family’s flock on land south of the village. Around mid-day he gathered his sheep and was walking along the road leading to his house. The Ibey Hanachal outpost is situated alongside the road. As he was walking, three military jeeps pulled up and three soldiers got out and came over to him.

    According to 'Abayat, one of the soldiers asked him what he was doing there and kicked him before he could answer. The blow knocked Abayat to the ground, injuring his elbow, which began to bleed. The other soldiers searched him, cuffed his hands, and blindfolded him. Then they threw him onto the floor of the jeep, which then drove off. They drove for about two hours, during which the soldiers insulted and swore at him. The jeep came to the Etzion army base, where the soldiers left him waiting in the yard for a few hours, still blindfolded and cuffed. The soldiers next to him continued to swear at him and insult him, and one of the soldiers pushed a tomato into his mouth.

    At the police station at Etzion, 'Abayat was questioned about what he was doing next to the road. He was released several hours later and told to return two days later for further questioning. According to 'Abayat, shepherds collected his sheep and returned them to his village. When he went back to the police state at the designated time, he was kept waiting for hours and then the soldiers told him to go home. He was not questioned at all.
    B'Tselem complained to the MAG Corps on ‘Abayat’s behalf, demanding an investigation into the matter. An MPIU investigation was opened.

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    Border Police officers beat resident of Silwan, East Jerusalem

    Wahid a-Rawidi. Photo: Suad Abu Ramuz

    Wahid a-Rawidi, 34, lives in East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, is married, and has five children. Around 7:00 P.M. on 15 September 2011, he was riding with his mother, wife, and two of his children – who were three years old and one year old – to a nearby neighborhood to visit his sister, who had given birth a few days earlier. At the time, residents of the neighborhood were throwing stones at Border Police. On the way, the Rawidi family encountered a Border Police jeep that had blocked the road.

    The policemen ordered a-Rawidi to stop and demanded the ID cards of everyone in the car. His mother did not have her ID card with her. While a-Rawidi was trying to convince the policeman to let him continue on his way, another jeep approached, and residents threw stones at it. A-Rawidi worried that his car and his children would be injured by the stones, so he moved the car about ten meters forward. His way was blocked by another police jeep. A policeman got out of the jeep. He ordered a-Rawidi to get out of his car and open the doors. He got out and told his family to wait outside the car while the policemen checked it. During this time, more stones were thrown at the police, and some of them hit a-Rawidi’s car.

    According to a-Rawidi, he asked the policemen if he could move his car. The border policemen shouted and swore at him, and beat him all over his body. One of the police officers pushed him to the ground, cuffed his hands behind him, and sprayed tear gas into his face. A-Rawidi told B'Tselem: “I felt like I was choking, like I was about to die. My eyes burned like crazy.”

    After that, a-Rawidi told B'Tselem, the policemen put him into the jeep and blindfolded him. He said he heard his mother trying to reach him and to get the police to release him, but they shouted at her to move back. Residents who had gathered around moved his mother away out of fear that the policemen would harm her. The jeep drove off and stopped after going a short distance, and the policemen got out.

    A-Rawidi asked the policemen to allow him to get out because he was having trouble breathing. They let him out. One of the policemen ordered him to stand a long time with his back to a wall. He asked the policemen to call for an ambulance since he was hurting from the beating. The policeman disregarded his request. According to a-Rawidi’s testimony, the policemen told him that he could end the matter if he agreed to go home as if nothing had happened. He refused and insisted that he go to the hospital and to file a complaint for the violent acts and humiliation he had suffered.

    He was taken to the police station in Jerusalem’s Old City, where he was told he was suspected of assaulting police officers and for disturbing them in the performance of their duties. He denied the allegations and signed a statement giving his version. He was then taken to the police station in the Russian Compound, where he was examined by a physician, who ordered that he be taken to a hospital for examination. After being examined at the hospital, he was returned to the police station and the next day was brought before a Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court judge to extend his remand.

    The judge, Haim Li-Ran denied the police’s application to extend the detention for three days for purposes of investigation. In his decision, the judge wrote, “I find it hard to understand why the incident developed as it did, and as a result a suspect is standing before me who has been beaten, with a blue mark under his right eye and a bloodstained shirt.”

    A-Rawidi filed a complaint with the Department for the Investigation of Police (DIP). DIP informed B'Tselem that the complaint is being investigated.

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    Border Police beat two minors at the Container checkpoint

    Amir Qabajeh. Photo: Musa Abu Hashhash, B’Tselem

    On Friday, 17 December 2010, Palestinian youth from the Hebron, Ramallah, and Nablus districts took a trip to Jericho to mark the end of a computer course. Around 7:00 P.M., their bus came to the Container checkpoint, near the Abu Dis Municipality. One of the Border Police officers staffing the checkpoint entered the bus and began to collect the ID cards of the group.

    Among the boys was Amir Qabajeh, 16, from Tarqumiya, Hebron District. He told B'Tselem’s field researcher that the trip had been great and the atmosphere on the bus was fantastic. When the policeman reached him, he was joking with his friends. The policeman took his ID card and ordered him to get off the bus. The policeman also ordered a friend of Qabajeh's, who he was joking with, to get off the bus.

    The two boys said that the policemen ordered them to sit under an open shelter next to the checkpoint. Then the policemen took them, one after the other, behind a structure at the checkpoint and beat them.

    Qabajeh told B'Tselem that, when he returned to the bus, he felt humiliated and embarrassed due to the policemen’s assault on him with his friends and relatives nearby. The good atmosphere on the bus turned into sadness and silence. The atmosphere worsened when his friend, H. returned to the bus. They could see the markings of a beating on his body. Qabajeh told B'Tselem that he would never forget what happened to him that day, and the grief and embarrassment he suffered.

    About a month later, B'Tselem, acting on behalf of Qabajeh and H, reported the incident to the Department for the Investigation of Police (DIP) and demanded an investigation. Three months later, DIP informed B'Tselem that, since the complainants did not want to file a complaint, it had decided not to open an investigation. In fact, Qabajeh’s family did want Amir to give testimony. B'Tselem informed DIP of the family’s position and they re-opened the file. An investigator took Amir's testimony.

    In October 2011, DIP informed B'Tselem that, after examining the complaint, it was decided that the circumstances of the cases did not warrant a criminal investigation. B'Tselem asked to see the investigation file. This file reveals the most superficial of investigations with no real attempt to get at the truth. The entire file consisted solely of Amir’s testimony and the Border Police mission report from the day of the incident. The mission report did not mention the incident at all, and DIP did not bother to take the testimonies of the Border Police officers who were at the checkpoint or of the checkpoint’s commander, although their particulars appeared in the mission report.

    On 4 December 2011, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel wrote to the State Attorney's Office against the DIP’s decision not to open a criminal investigation and demanded that the investigation be reopened and conducted properly.

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