Yesterday (1 Dec. 2014) HCJ held first hearing in petition by Ahmad ‘Awad whose son Samir, 16, was shot and killed by soldiers in Budrus nearly two years ago. The petition, filed with B’Tselem, calls for a decision by the MAG on whether to indict. The Court added the Attorney General as respondent because Military Justice Law no longer applies to the since-discharged soldiers suspected in the incident. Justice Melcer: “In future, MAG Corps officials must know that […] they must complete all proceedings before the soldiers are discharged.”
The arrest of a Border Police officer suspected of killing Palestinian youths at Bitunya confirms B’Tselem’s finding that Nadim Nawarah and Muhammad Salameh were killed by live fire and not rubber-coated bullets. Officials and pundits initially attempted to divert attention from the grave outcome by smearing the credibility of security camera footage. The authorities would do well to focus on uncovering the truth, instead of creating media spins to shirk responsibility. The investigation must be speedily completed and those responsible tried.
In March 2014 soldiers shot and killed Yusef a-Shawamreh, 14, as he crossed the Separation Barrier to pick edible plants. Our investigation indicates that he was shot in broad daylight, with no advance warning, although he posed no danger. In July, the military declared the investigation closed, suspecting no criminal action or breach of regulation. The appalling, fatal outcome cannot be tolerated. The responsibility lies with the military’s bodies who issue commands to the troops and the judicial arm which closed the case.
In response to the MAG corps announcement detailing some of the investigations opened into "exceptional" cases during operation Protective Edge, B'Tselem stated that based on past experience, it isn't holding out hope that this process will lead to results other than a whitewash. B'Tselem announced this week that it will not assist the current military investigation mechanism, which currently amounts is nothing more than a masquerade and called for the establishment of an effective, transparent and impartial mechanism.
B’Tselem and Yesh Din, the two leading Israeli human rights organizations in monitoring the investigations of offenses committed by security forces against Palestinians, find that the military law enforcement system is a complete failure. After examining the results of hundreds of investigations, the organizations assert that the existing investigation mechanism precludes serious investigations and is marred by severe structural flaws that render it incapable of conducting professional investigations.
During Operation Protective Edge, Israel violated international humanitarian law in some cases, and many other cases are highly suspect. However, B’Tselem does not intend to demand that these suspicions be investigated by Israel’s current investigation mechanisms. This is due to the experience that B’Tselem gained following past military offensives in the Gaza Strip, which shows that there is currently no official body in Israel capable of conducting independent investigations of suspected violations of international humanitarian law.
On 10 June 2014, nearly 17 months after Lubna al-Hanash was killed and two months after her father and B'Tselem petitioned the HCJ demanding that the MAG decide whether to indict those responsible for her death, the MAG Corps decided to close the investigation without filing charges. Al-Hanash was killed by a gunshot wound to her head while walking with a relative in a park near Route 60. B'Tselem's investigation found that the two women posed no danger and that the soldier who fired did not take minimal precautions to avoid harm to bystanders.
An op-ed By Hagai El-Ad, B'Tselem's executive director, originally published in Haaretz: three families hanging between despair and hope, and if only that hope could win. But what responsibility is this, what hope is this, and what humanity is this if it is so completely blind to the Palestinian suffering? A great majority of the time, for most of the Jews here, the Palestinian suffering is completely denied. When it is not documented on video it interests almost no one, and when it is documented it is repressed as a conspiracy.
After undertaking an autopsy of the body of Nadim Nawarah, 17, on Wednesday, forensic pathologists have determined that a live bullet was the cause of his death. The Palestinian teenager was killed by Israeli forces on May 15 during clashes in the West Bank town of Beitunia. Responding to the conclusions of the autopsy, the four organizations who coordinated the attendance of the international forensic pathologists stated: "These findings underline the urgency of our demand that the criminal investigation into the Beitunia killings be conducted efficiently and concluded promptly. Rather than attempting to discredit those who called for an investigation, the Israeli military should now focus on uncovering the truth about the shootings, and holding those responsible to account."
On 13 May 2011 Border Police violently dispersed a demonstration at a-Nabi Saleh. Of the five complaints filed, the DIP investigated only one and adopted no further measures. The DIP’s handling of the complaints was faulty and its decision not to investigate is unjustifiable. Of equal concern is the State Attorney's Office’s support of the DIP’s actions, essentially conveying the message that police officers who overstep their authority and harm civilians will not be brought to justice. This is in direct violation of the state’s obligation to safeguard civilians.
Hassan a-Taber, 47, of Beitillu, was killed on 29 July 2012 when police and a security guard at a-Za’ayem Checkpoint fired at the van driving him and other laborers without work permits into Israel. The DIP investigated the shooting and closed the case on the grounds that it was not unlawful. B’Tselem’s appeal, arguing the investigation had been negligent, was denied. The closing of the case and the rejected appeal effectively render meaningless open-fire regulations and the procedures of ensuring accountability for severe human rights violations.
Today, over 14 months since Lubna al-Hanash was killed on 23 Jan. 2013 by shots soldiers fired near al-‘Arrub RC, her father petitioned the HCJ with B’Tselem to oblige the MAG to decide whether to charge the perpetrators. Al-Hanash was shot in the head while strolling with a relative in the gardens of a college campus near Route 60. B’Tselem found that the two women posed no danger and that shooting at them was unjustified. The MAG’s prolonged delay violates the family’s rights by reducing the chances of an effective criminal procedure.
On 5 Dec. 2013, the MAG Corps notified B’Tselem of its decision to close the investigation into the killing of Mustafa Tamimi by a tear-gas canister fired at him in Dec. 2011. The Corps claimed that the firing was done "according to the relevant rules and regulations and did not involve any illegality." The decision, two years after the incident, conveys the military’s indifference to the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank, and sends Israeli soldiers and officers the message that they will not be held accountable for killing unarmed civilians. In the meantime, this type of firing continues, and it is only a matter of time before yet another unarmed Palestinian civilian is killed in this way. B’Tselem will demand to see all the investigation material.
On 31 October 2013, Ahmad Tazaz’ah, 20, was killed in a market near Qabatiya, in the northern West Bank. According to B’Tselem’s inquiry, Tazaz’ah was killed by live ammunition fired by Israeli soldiers, and not in intra-Palestinian violence. According to the investigation, Palestinian youths threw stones at Israeli troops returning from an arrest operation in Qabatiya. The troops stopped near the market and responded with crowd control weapons and live fire. Tazaz’ah was hit by a live round in the chest. B’Tselem’s inquiry shows the soldiers were not in any real danger, raising a grave suspicion they breached open-fire regulations. B'Tselem conveyed its findings to the MAG Corps, which announced the opening of a "limited investigation," in light of the suspicions regarding the involvement of Israeli soldiers in the incident.
4 and 1/2 years after Bassem Abu Rahmeh, 30, was killed when struck in the chest by a tear-gas grenade fired directly at him from close range, the state announced it is closing the case for lack of evidence. The announcement was made further to a High Court petition by Bassem’s mother, demanding an investigation into the killing of her son in April 2009 during a demonstration against the Separation Barrier in Bil’in. Three video segments prove that Abu Rahmeh was east of the barrier, did not act violently, and did not endanger the soldiers.
Six months after the Turkel Commission’s issued its report on Israel’s investigative policy of alleged violations of laws of war, B’Tselem published a position paper on the report. While the commission held that Israel fulfills its obligation to investigate, it noted: “in several of the areas examined, there are grounds for amending examination and investigation mechanisms and in several areas, there are grounds for changing the accepted policy”. The commission’s recommendations are far-reaching. Nonetheless, B’Tselem emphasizes that greater systemic change is needed to bring Israel’s military investigative policy up to par.
Ibrahim Sarhan, 21, was shot and killed by soldiers in July of 2011, at the al-Far'ah refugee camp, in the Tubas district. The MAG corps decided not to serve indictments against the soldiers who killed him. In an appeal against the decision filed this month, B'Tselem claims that the investigation materials contain evidence that the fatal shooting of Sarhan was carried out in violation of the open-fire regulations and without any justification. This case illustrates the military's problematic conduct with respect to investigating the killing of Palestinians.
Two years after the State Attorney’s Office announced a change to the military’s investigative policy, B'Tselem follows up the cases of civilians killed by the military in the West Bank. The information demonstrates that some of the investigations are of unreasonably lengthy duration. In other cases, the decision on how the case ought to be handled is delayed at the level of the MAG Corps. This type of investigative policy diminishes the prospects for an effective criminal proceeding, constituting a serious infringement of both the principle of the rule of law and the power to deter and prevent similar incidents.
The media have reported that on 18 March 2013 an Israeli soldier was convicted of negligent homicide in the death of ‘Udai Darawish. On 12 Jan. 2013 the soldier shot Darawish after the latter crossed into Israel from the West Bank through a gap in the Separation Barrier. Darawish was on his way to work in Israel but had no entry permit. The prosecution reportedly intended to charge the soldier with homicide, but the charge was reduced through a plea bargain. The soldier’s sentence is yet to be given. Indictments of soldiers involved in killing Palestinians are extremely rare. B’Tselem knows of only 15 indictments in such cases since the outbreak of the second Intifada.
On 3 March 2013, B’Tselem filed an appeal against the decision of the MAG Corps’ not to indict in the case of Eran Cohen, an Israel civilian injured by a rubber-coated metal bullet during a demonstration in Bil’in on 14 March 2008. Cohen was shot by an Israeli officer despite having done nothing to endanger the soldiers, as can be seen in two separate videos of the incident that were conveyed to the police. The MAG Corps refused to disclose to B’Tselem its reasoning for closing the case.