IDF closes probe into 2014 ‘Nakba Day’ killing

B’Tselem said the decision “exposes the absurdity” of the way the IDF approaches cases in which Palestinians are shot and the problematic leniency in using live fire.

March 31, 2016 04:07
2 minute read.
El Walaja

Israeli soldiers run during clashes with Palestinian protesters at a protest marking the 66th anniversary of Nakba, in the West Bank village of El Walaja near Bethlehem May 15, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS)

B’Tselem announced late Wednesday that the IDF has closed its investigation into the killing of Muhammad Abu Daher in Beitunya on “Nakba Day” in May 2014 without filing an indictment.

IDF Lt.-Col. Edoram Rigler wrote B’Tselem that the case was being closed by Judge Advocate-General Brig.-Gen. Sharon Afek because the IDF could not shed light on the cause of Abu Daher’s death and could not find evidence that any of the soldiers or police in the area had used live fire directed at Palestinians.

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He noted that Abu Daher’s family refused to allow an autopsy, and that, at most, some security forces used warning shots to disperse protesters and rioters, but without firing directly at them.

B’Tselem said the decision “exposes the absurdity” of the way the IDF approaches cases in which Palestinians are shot and the problematic leniency in using live fire.

A spokeswoman pointed out that former border policeman Ben Deri is under indictment in the Jerusalem District Court for shooting Palestinian Nadim Nuwara on the same day and in similar circumstances caught on video.

She questioned how Nuwara’s alleged killer could be indicted for manslaughter when no one is being brought to justice for killing Abu Daher or for wounding other Palestinians that day.

There had been speculation that Deri might be indicted for both killings or that another member of the security forces might be indicted.

At the time of the incident, Palestinians and Israeli left-wing activists said that Nuwara and Abu Daher, were shot with live ammunition, which soldiers are supposed to use only when their lives are in danger.

Palestinians said in June 2014 that an autopsy concluded that Nuwara had been killed by live fire. Palestinian, US and Danish pathologists were reportedly present at the autopsy in the Palestinian Institute of Forensic Medicine in Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem.

The absence of an autopsy and less comprehensive video footage are two elements that differentiate the Abu Daher case from the Nuwara case.

Some critics of the IDF have said it does not indict soldiers for killing Palestinians without a smoking gun, such as video evidence, which is a higher standard than beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the applicable standard for criminal law.

Despite its criticism, B’Tselem said that, due to issues unrelated to the evidence, it did not expect to petition the High Court of Justice over the decision, and that it was unclear if anyone else would.

Rigler is also the lead prosecutor against the IDF soldier currently under suspicion of murder in last week’s shooting of a Palestinian in Hebron.

He dated the letter late January, but due to unique logistical issues B’Tselem’s staff viewed the letter for the first time only on Wednesday.

The Deri case opened in October, but was postponed when his lawyer, Zion Amir, had the judge disqualified for being related to one of the prosecution’s witnesses.

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