Court petitioned to finish probe into Palestinian's death
Bassem Abu Rahmah was killed by a tear gas canister fired by soldiers during a demonstration in 2009, but the investigation into his death has not been completed.
Demonstration at Bil'in Photo: Reuters
The mother of Bassem Abu Rahmah, killed by a tear gas canister fired by soldiers
during a demonstration near Bil’in, has filed a petition with the High Court of
Justice to “end the procrastination” in the investigation into her son’s
The petition was announced by B’Tselem on Monday.
Rahmah, whose story was featured in the film 5 Broken Cameras, was killed in
April 2009, but the investigation into his death has not been
The petition demands that Military- Advocate General Maj.-Gen.
Danny Efroni be ordered to reach a decision in the case and prosecute the
soldier who fired the grenade and all those bearing command responsibility for
the killing of Abu Rahmah.
In the petition, which was filed jointly with
the Bil’in village council, B’Tselem and Yesh Din, Subhiya Abu Rahmah demands an
urgent hearing in view of the fact that almost four years have passed since her
son was killed.
Abu Rahmah was killed at the age of 30 in April 2009 when
he was struck in the chest by what the petition called “an extended-range tear
gas grenade,” during a demonstration against the West Bank security barrier in
his home of Bil’in, near Ramallah.
The IDF responded on Tuesday saying
that “the petition still has not been received by the military
When it is received, it will be reviewed and a response
will be filed with the court.”
The statement continued, “Investigation of
this event, in which IDF and Border Police forces took part, is complex and
being handled by the military advocategeneral in conjunction with the Ministry
of Justice,” following an investigation by the Military Police.
the investigation, a large amount of testimony was collected from different
authorities and many other investigative activities,” the statement
The IDF said that after the evidence was given to the military
advocate-general, he requested the collection of additional
According to the petition, three video segments filmed during
the demonstration prove that Abu Rahmah was situated to the east of the fence,
did not act violently and did not in any way endanger the soldiers who were
present to maintain order.
The petitioners also attached an opinion
prepared by experts in forensic architecture and 3D imaging from London and New
York who have analyzed the films documenting the incident and determined that
the grenade was aimed directly at Abu Rahmah.
The experts also assist
Western nations with reviewing crime scenes, including scenes for the war crimes
cases from the former Yugoslavia.
The expert report found that the kind
of canister used had specific properties, including its own thrust, which meant
it could not have hit a wire on the security barrier and have rebounded to hit
Abu Rahmah as the IDF initially claimed.
Next, the experts found that if
the canister had been fired according to regulations, it would have flown over
the protesters’ heads and landed far behind them.
petition concludes that the deceased did not pose any threat to the soldiers,
and that the shooting constituted a criminal offense.
The petition also
concludes that the soldier who fired the grenade should be prosecuted and,
“depending on the results of the investigation, it is possible that his
commanders should also be prosecuted.”
Next, the petition alleges the
video segments show that other soldiers fired gas grenades directly at
demonstrators during the protest, in the presence of senior officers and in
complete contravention of the open-fire regulations.
According to the
petition, the previous military advocate-general, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Avichai
Mandelblit, initially refused to instruct the Military Police Investigation Unit
(MPIU) to open an investigation into the killing.
The petition says that
he changed his mind “only after a threat to petition the High Court of Justice
and the publication of the expert opinion.”
The MPIU opened an
investigation in July 2010 and several additional investigations have since
In March 2012, the military advocategeneral notified the
petitioners that additional evidence and testimony were being
In July 2012, he notified the petitioners that all relevant
evidence in the case as to whether to prosecute any of the soldiers involved had
Despite those activities, no decision has been taken to
prosecute any suspects or to close the file, and the IDF statement did not
address any changes that might have occurred in its position on the case over
the course of the investigation.
B’Tslem said the petition was filed
after the military advocate-general was “given a last chance” to make a decision
on the case about a month ago.
The petitioners said that the “refusal to
reach a decision in the case over such a long period is unreasonable in the
extreme, in part in view of the obligation under international law that an
investigation into a grave human rights violation must be effective, take place
without delay and be completed promptly.”
Next, the petition said that
“the failure to reach a decision is dangerous and conveys the message to IDF and
border guard personnel engaged in dispersing demonstrations that even if they
shoot and kill demonstrators, they will not bear criminal liability. Such a
message reflects contempt for the lives of Palestinian civilians.”
press release, the petitioners added that the delay in investigating Abu
Rahmah’s killing “is just one example, albeit a particularly extreme one, of the
slow pace of investigations and decisionmaking by the military advocate-general,
which often extends over several years.”
A B’Tselem spokesman said that
the delay is problematic for several reasons, including harming witnesses’
ability to recall events; the gathering of evidence; for Abu Rahmah’s family,
who said it was in need of compensation for the wages Abu Rahmah would have
earned; complicating any prosecution since soldiers eventually leave army
service, which would mean that the State Attorney’s Office would have to take
over parts of the case; and hamstringing the family’s ability to seek relief
since they cannot even appeal until the military advocate-general, at the very
least, decides to close the case.