On 3 Feb. 2011, Att. Gaby Lasky submitted a petition on behalf of B'Tselem to the Israeli High Court of Justice, demanding that the court order the Judge Advocate General's Office (JAG's Office) to decide whether to initiate proceedings against the soldiers involved in the killing of Firas Qasqas three years ago. Qasqas was shot and killed although he was unarmed and posed no threat.
The incident took place on 2 Dec. 2007 in a-Tira neighborhood in Ramallah. Firas Qasqas, a 32-year-old husband and father of three from the village of Batir in Bethlehem District, came to a-Tira with his family to visit relatives. According to information obtained by B'Tselem, that afternoon, Qasqas and two of his brothers-in-law went for a walk in an open area near the houses of the neighborhood. Suddenly, they saw a group of soldiers some 500 meters from them. Without warning, the soldiers opened fire at the three men, who were unarmed and had not done anything to endanger the soldiers' lives. A bullet struck Qasqas in the back and exited from his stomach. His two companions took him to hospital in Ramallah, where he died from his wounds.
Following the incident, B'Tselem wrote to the JAG's Office on several occasions, demanding a Military Police investigation be opened into the circumstances of the killing. Some two months passed before the JAG ordered such an investigation. B'Tselem assisted the Military Police Investigation Unit (MPIU) in coordinating the taking of testimonies of the two men who were with Qasqas when he was shot, and provided the MPIU with all the relevant material the organization had in the matter.
The area where Qasas and his brothers-in-law were taking a walk when he was shot to death. Photo: B’Tselem.
To the best of B'Tselem's knowledge, the investigative work in the file ended roughly a year and a half after the incident took place. The findings were handed over to the office of the Judge Advocate for Operational Matters. Since then another year and a half has passed.
Despite the time that has gone by, the JAG's Office has still not decided whether to prosecute the soldiers involved or to close the file. In response to B'Tselem's repeated requests that a decision be made, the JAG's Office said that the delay was due to a heavy workload.
Such a lengthy delay effectively closes the file, harming the criminal proceeding and infringing the complainants' rights. The longer the decision is delayed, the less the chance there will be of an effective criminal proceeding, due to the loss of evidence and blurring of the witness's recollection, among other things. The principle of the rule of law is thus compromised, as is the potential for deterrence inherent to an effective prosecution. In its petition, B'Tselem requests that the court order the JAG's Office to immediately reach a decision in the case and explain the decision.