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From the field

Israel’s State Attorney’s Office continues foot-dragging in investigation of killing of Samir ‘Awad

Foot-Dragging Continues: Samir 'Awad, 16m was killed in January 2013 when he was shot in the back by soldiers. The investigation has been dragging on for two and a halfe years.

More than two and a half years ago, soldiers killed sixteen-year-old Samir ‘Awad. A year and two months later, his father petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) together with B'Tselem, demanding the Military Advocate General (MAG) reach a decision whether to take action against the soldiers involved or close the case. The State Attorney’s Office continues the foot-dragging in this case, repeatedly ignoring interim court decisions.

In its last decision, the HCJ ordered the state to make a final decision on the case by 3 August 2015. Instead, on the very day of the ordered deadline, the State Attorney’s Office told the HCJ it needed more time to reach a final decision and requested to make an additional submission to the court by 10 September 2015, in which it would provide a progress report. Justice Hanan Melcer granted the motion by the State Attorney’s Office and ordered to schedule a hearing.

This motion by the State Attorney’s Office is another instance of the repeated delays by authorities in handling the Samir ‘Awad investigation, as seen in other cases as well. The delays, which in this case have continued even into the proceedings held in the HCJ petition, show that even the mechanisms ostensibly responsible for monitoring the work of the MAG Corps are party to the policy of lack of enforcement in terms of perpetrators of harm to Palestinians.

Below is the chain of events in the case to date:

On 15 January 2013, 16-year-old Palestinian Samir ‘Awad was killed by live ammunition Israeli soldiers fired at him near the Separation Barrier near the village of Budrus, the West Bank. A B’Tselem inquiry revealed that although ‘the soldiers were not in danger at any time during the incident, they shot ‘Awad three times. According to media reports, the initial investigation by the Israeli military found that ‘Awad was shot in contravention of open-fire regulations. The military was also reported to have video footage of the incident captured on the Separation Barrier surveillance cameras.

On 27 March 2014, Ahmad ‘Awad, Samir’s father, petitioned the HCJ together with B'Tselem, demanding that the MAG, Maj. Gen. Danny Efroni, make the decision of whether to indict the soldiers who killed his son, or close the case.

On 1 December 2014, the HCJ ordered the MAG Corps and the State Attorney’s Office to make a decision with regard to the investigation of Samir ‘Awad’s death by 1 March 2015. The court added the Attorney General as a respondent in the petition since it was found that the soldiers suspected in the case had been discharged from the military and were, therefore, no longer subject to the Military Justice Law.

After further deferrals, on 14 April 2015, the State Attorney’s Office finally informed the HCJ that, “subject to a hearing and the conclusion of privilege proceedings”, it had decided to file an indictment on the charge of “a reckless and negligent act using a firearm”. On 10 June 2015, the State Attorney’s Office asked the HCJ to dismiss the petition because privilege proceedings had ended and the hearings for the two suspects had begun. The petitioners objected, stating that should the petition be dismissed, the authorities might continue the foot-dragging and delays.

On 22 July 2015, Justice Hanan Melcer ruled that the State Attorney’s Office must inform the court by 3 August 2015 of the results of the hearings held for the two suspects and the resultant decision.

On 3 August 2015, the State Attorney’s Office informed the HCJ that hearings were held for the two suspects on 21 and 23 June 2015 and that following arguments presented by their counsel, the State Attorney’s Office would have to make some further inquiries and even conduct supplementary investigations. The State Attorney’s Office also said that given the “complexity and sensitivity of the investigation”, the case was transferred from the Central District Attorney’s Office to the office of the Deputy State Attorney (Special Functions) and is expected to be transferred to the State Attorney himself for a final decision. According to the state’s submission, further inquiries would include a probe into whether or not additional suspects should be investigated.