One year on, investigation into the killing of Mustafa Tamimi still not completed

Published: 
5 Dec 2012

A year after the killing of Mustafa Tamimi, resident of the West Bank village of a-Nabi Saleh, who was fatally injured in the head by a tear gas canister, B’Tselem contacted Military Advocate for Operational Matters Lt. Col. Ronen Hirsch, demanding clarification of the status of the case. The organization served notice that it intends to seek legal remedy as may be required to end the delays in pursuing this case and prevent damage to the rights of the complainants and to the criminal process.

Photographs of the firing directly at a-Tamimi, by Haim Scwarczenberg, 9 Dec. '11.
Photographs of the firing directly at a-Tamimi, by Haim Scwarczenberg, 9 Dec. '11.

Nearly one year ago, on 9 December 2011, an Israeli soldier shot a tear gas canister at very short range at Mustafa Tamimi during a demonstration in a-Nabi Saleh. Tamimi, critically injured, was taken for treatment at Beilinson Hospital and died of his wounds the next day. On the same day the incident took place, B’Tselem submitted a complaint to the Military Police Investigations Unit in Jerusalem. The MPIU opened an investigation two days later. Nonetheless, the Advocate for Operational Matters has yet to announce a decision on whether to serve an indictment or close the case. To the best of B’Tselem's knowledge, the investigation continues. The explanation provided to B’Tselem to justify the lengthy process is that “this is an operational inquiry, complicated and challenging, and decisions arrived at during it, which influence its duration, are taken in a matter-of-fact manner based solely on the needs of the inquiry and the quest for the truth.”

Noa Tal, Director of the Data Department at B’Tselem, noted in her letter that even had this explanation been acceptable some two months after the incident, an inquiry lasting a period of nearly one year cannot be considered reasonable. The longer the process is drawn out, the greater the damage to the prospects for an effective criminal proceeding, inter alia because some of the evidence will no longer exist and the witnesses’ recollections are liable to be less acute. Thus grave harm is done to the principle of the rule of law and the deterrent value for discouraging similar acts in the future.