Rare indictment against IDF soldiers for killing Palestinian minor

NGO slams light negligence charge, delay

December 31, 2015 19:40
2 minute read.
Palestinians walk near an opening in Israel's security fence east Jerusalem

Palestinians walk near an opening in Israel's security fence in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of A-tur. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Three years after two IDF soldiers shot and killed unarmed Palestinian Samir Awad, 16, near the West Bank security barrier in January 2013, the Central District Attorney’s office has filed an indictment against the two for negligence in the killing.

The decision to indict soldiers, whose names were finally revealed for the first time as Asaf Goldberg and Arthur Dennison, in connection with killing a Palestinian was a rare move by the state and was supported by the IDF.

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However, B’Tselem – The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, which announced the indictment Thursday and led the effort pressing the state to revisit the case – slammed the indictment for a lenient negligence charge instead of a harsher manslaughter or murder charge.

The state, which actually filed the indictment with the Ramle Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, made no public announcement, despite several prior requests by The Jerusalem Post to provide notice when the indictment was filed.

In August, the state informed the High Court of Justice that it had already held special pre-indictment hearings for the soldier suspects on June 21 and June 23 regarding Awad’s death near Budrus, northwest of Beitar Illit.

Head State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and the highest levels of the IDF legal division were involved in the case.

Despite the decision to indict Goldberg and Dennison, the state filed more lenient charges, ostensibly since it could not determine which soldier caused Awad’s death or the exact cause of death, having been unable to examine Awad’s body.

However, B’Tselem said that this is a problem caused by the state, as there have been problems with how it has handled or performed autopsies on Palestinian bodies in the past.

According to the indictment, both Goldberg and Dennison clearly violated the rules of engagement, firing on Awad as he was running away into Palestinian territory with his back to them, having done nothing other than try to cross illegally into Israel and presenting no danger.

These developments come after the state was repeatedly pounded by the High Court for its extreme delay in deciding whether to issue an indictment or close the case.

During a December 2014 hearing, the High Court criticized the IDF and the state for dragging their feet on the investigation, including allowing the two soldiers involved in the shooting to be released from the army before undergoing proper questioning.

The case has also been problematic for the state as it tries to present its investigative apparatus to the world and the International Criminal Court as objective and prompt in examining alleged crimes by soldiers, and comes at a time when the state’s alleged leniency in dealing with violence against Palestinians is under heavy scrutiny.

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