Update: On 1 Sept. 2014, the State Attorney’s Office responded to the petition, stating that “in the absence of unusual incidents or other unusual circumstances that may delay the case”, the MAG will be able to reach a decision in the case in approximately six months from now. According to the response, one of the suspects is no longer under the jurisdiction of martial law and if the MAG finds in favor of indicting him, the final decision in his case will be made by the State Attorney’s Office – a matter that will require more time. The Office requested that the petition be rejected outright, stating that the MAG Corps is aware of its obligation to carry out an effective investigation and is indeed doing so, rendering the petition premature. The HCJ rejected this request and set a date for a hearing on the petition.
Ahmad ‘Awad, whose son Samir was shot and killed by soldiers near the Separation Barrier in the West Bank village of Budrus, petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice together with Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, demanding that the court oblige Military Advocate General Maj. Gen. Danny Efroni to decide whether to indict the soldiers who killed his son or close the case file.
The petitioners’ legal counsel, Att. Gaby Lasky, noted that every day that goes by without a decision by the MAG reduces the chances that effective criminal procedures be taken against the perpetrators. This constitutes an ever-increasing infringement of The rights of the deceased’s family. It also results in greater harm to the rule of law and to public interest in bringing offenders to justice.
Samir ‘Awad, 16, was killed on 15 January 2013. He was killed by live ammunition that soldiers fired from close range that struck him in the shoulder and in the back of the head. These bullets were fired at the unarmed ‘Awad after he had already been wounded in the leg and posed no danger to the troops. A Military Police investigation was launched the very same day and, according to media reports, the initial inquiry found that ‘Awad had been shot in contravention of open-fire regulations. The media also reported that the military had video footage of the incident from Separation Barrier surveillance cameras. Nevertheless, more than 14 months after the incident, the MAG has yet to render his decision whether to indict the offenders or close the case. Moreover, B’Tselem was recently informed that after the MP had taken over six months to conclude a required additional investigation of the incident, the case had now been returned to them for even further investigation. To the best of the petitioners’ knowledge, these steps have yet to be concluded.
Whereas the MAG Corps cites the complexity of the investigation as grounds for the prolonged delay in reaching a decision about the case, the petitioners say that “complex investigation” cannot be used as a catchall phrase to relieve the MAG Corps of its responsibility for ensuring that investigation and prosecution procedures are timely and effective. This is of particular concern as the MAG Corps regularly cites the complexity of investigations as grounds for lengthy delays in all cases of Palestinians killed by soldiers. According to the petitioners, this blanket claim is dubious and cannot be used to justify hampering law enforcement with regard to the people responsible for the deaths of Palestinian civilians. Justice Esther Hayut ordered the State to respond to the petition by 11 May 2014.