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Appeal against the closing of investigation into beating of Silwan resident by Border Police officer

Update: Appeal of DIP's decision to close case rejected

On 27 August 2013 the Appellate Dept. at the Office of the State Attorney sent a response to ACRI, who had appealed the closing of the case. The response stated that after examining the appeal and the investigative material, Deputy State Attorney Mr. Yehuda Sheffer found the DIP’s decision to close the case should not be changed and, accordingly, rejected the appeal.

In the grounds cited for the decision it was explained that the three police officers who had been questioned under caution, denied using excessive force and reiterated the versions they gave to the police on the day of the incident, namely that the complainant fled a police roadblock and then, after being stopped at another barrier, began acting in a disorderly manner, resisted arrest and handcuffing, and kicked and punched the police officers, forcing them to use reasonable force, including pepper-spray, in the struggle to bring him under control and handcuff him. The response also noted that the accounts by the police officers as to the complainant’s conduct are corroborated by various police reports from the day of the incident.

The decision by the Appellate Dept. at the Office of the State Attorney, as was the DIP’s decision, was made based on the versions of events given by the police officers and on police material and gives little weight to the complainant’s account. Moreover, the decision disregards the demand made by ACRI and B’Tselem to exhaust all investigative avenues in the case. For example, at the very least, collecting additional eyewitness accounts, such as by a-Rawidi’s mother and wife, passersby and other Border Police officers who were involved in the incident and whose names appear in the Border Police operative report which was included in the investigative file.

וחיד א-רוידי למחרת האירוע. צילום: סועאד אבו רומוז, 16.9.11B’Tselem’s most recent annual report, “Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, 2011,” describes the attack on Silwan resident Wahid a-Rawidi by Border Police officers who detained him when he was driving with his family in Silwan on 15 September 2011. A B’Tselem investigator met with a-Rawidi five days after the incident and took his testimony.

Ten days after the assault, a-Rawidi submitted a complaint to the DIP, which opened a criminal investigation. As part of the investigation, three of the police officers involved were questioned as suspects. B’Tselem provided the DIP with photos taken by the complainant on the day of the incident, clearly showing the bruises on his face and upper body. B’Tselem also provided the DIP with medical documents and the transcript of the court hearing on a-Rawidi’s remand. The judge in that hearing noted in his decision that detaining a-Rawidi could have been handled differently, and less violently. Nonetheless, on 14 May 2012, the DIP decided to close the case on the basis of “insufficient evidence.”

Following the announcement that the file was being closed, B’Tselem asked to see the case file on behalf of the complainant. B’Tselem’s review found that the DIP decided to close the case despite not having undertaken all possible investigative steps and not having attempted to identify additional eyewitnesses who were themselves not party to the incident, although the DIP knew of the existence of such witnesses. It is important to note that the three policemen who were questioned as suspects confessed to the DIP that they had used physical force against a-Rawidi, but asserted that they had done so only after the latter attacked them.

Following an examination of the file, B’Tselem passed it on to the ACRI and on 17 July 2012, ACRI Attorney Nisreen Alyan submitted an appeal against the closing of the case to the State Attorney. In the appeal, written with the assistance of legal intern Talia Ramati, Attorney Alyan argued that the decision to close the case due to insufficient evidence was made despite the fact that there were possible avenues of investigation that were not pursued, and additional potential eyewitnesses were not summoned to help provide a more complete picture of the circumstances. Among other failings, Alyan cited the fact that the DIP had not summoned a-Rawidi’s mother or his wife to give testimony although they were eyewitnesses to the incident. Moreover, no attempt was made to identify other witnesses, even though the police officers questioned as suspects had stated that there were other residents at the scene, and the names of other Border Police officers present appear in the operational report included in the DIP case file.

In the appeal, Attorney Alyan called on the State Attorney to instruct the DIP to pursue all possible investigatory routes in the case, and to forward information on all significant aspects of the complaint to the Police Department’s Office for Public Complaints for further handling.

Following is the description of this incident as it appeared in the B’Tselem annual report, “Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, 2011”:

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

The police officers ordered a-Rawidi to stop and demanded the ID cards of everyone in the car. A-Rawidi’s mother did not have her ID card with her. While a-Rawidi was trying to convince the policeman to let him continue driving, another jeep approached, and residents threw stones at it. A-Rawidi worried that his car and his children would be hit by the stones, so he moved the car forward about ten meters, until he was blocked by another police jeep. A police officer got out of the jeep. He ordered a-Rawidi to get out of his car and open the doors. A-Rawidi 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 police officers if he could move his car. The officers shouted and swore at him, and beat him all over his body. One of the officers pushed a-Rawidi to the ground, cuffed his hands behind him, and sprayed pepper spray in 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 police officers put him into the jeep and blindfolded him. He said he heard his mother trying to get to him and to convince the police to release him, but they shouted at her to move back. Residents who had gathered nearby moved a-Rawidi’s mother away out of fear that the police officers would harm her. The Border Police jeep started driving off, but stopped after going a short distance, and the officers got out.

A-Rawidi asked the police officers to let him get out of the jeep because he was having trouble breathing. They let him out and one of the police officers ordered him to stand with his back to a wall for a long time. A-Rawidi asked the officers to call for an ambulance since he was hurt from the beating. The officers disregarded his request. According to a-Rawidi’s testimony, one of the police officers told him that he could end the whole thing if he agreed to go home as if nothing had happened. He refused and insisted on going to the hospital and filing a complaint about the violent acts and humiliation he had suffered.

A-Rawidi was taken to the police station in Jerusalem’s Old City, where he was told he was suspected of assaulting police officers and for interfering as they conducted their duties. A-Rawidi denied the allegations and signed a statement giving his version of the incident. He was then taken to the police station in the Russian Compound, where he was examined by a doctor. The doctor had A-Rawidi sent to the Sha’are Tzedek hospital for an examination. After being examined at the hospital, A-Rawidi was taken back to the police station. 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 A-Rawidi’s detention for three days in order to conduct an 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.”