NGOs petition to reopen case of Palestinian killed by an IDF tear gas canister

The case involves the shooting of Bassem Abu Rahmeh, killed in April 2009 during a demonstration in the West Bank.

April 1, 2015 19:07
2 minute read.
Israeli border police

An Israeli border policewoman fires a tear gas canister during a Palestinian demonstration in the West Bank, December 5.. (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

NGOs B’Tselem and Yesh Din on Wednesday filed a petition with the High Court of Justice asking it to compel Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein and the IDF to reopen the closed investigation into the death of Bassem Abu Rahmeh in April 2009. Abu Rahmeh died after being hit by an IDF tear gas canister.

The NGOs filed the case on behalf of Abu Rahmeh’s mother, Subhiya. The case gained international attention after being featured in the film 5 Broken Cameras,” an Academy Award nominee.

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The IDF legal division closed its investigation in September 2013, explaining that it had not found sufficient evidence to prosecute soldiers involved in firing the canister. The state attorneys involved also said they had been unable to identify which soldier had fired the canister.

However, that decision was made more than four years after the event and came only after a prior petition to the High Court to order the IDF to decide whether to prosecute or close the case.

The premise of the newest petition is that the IDF’s explanation of its closing of the case left open questions as to whether all relevant witnesses were questioned, all evidence was probed, and whether the petitioners’ expert reports on the issue were properly considered.

The petition, written by attorneys Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man and Michael Sfard, states that “Abu Rahmeh was killed by shooting carried out by IDF soldiers that was negligent at best, and the case file of the investigation of the circumstances of his death has been wallowing for years under unpardonable foot-dragging by the investigative and prosecutorial authorities.”

The petitioners claim that Abu Rahmeh was killed by an extended-range tear-gas canister that struck his chest during a nonviolent demonstration against the security fence in his village of Bil’in.

They claim that footage filmed at the demonstration proved that Abu Rahmeh was on the eastern side of the barrier, was not behaving violently, and did not endanger the troops in any way.

The footage also shows that other soldiers fired tear-gas canisters directly at the protesters, in blatant contravention of open-fire regulations, they said.

Next, the petition says that soldiers stated during questioning that they were neither trained nor briefed on the use of extended-range tear-gas canisters in dealing with a civilian demonstration.

Justice Menachem Mazuz ordered the state to respond by May 25.

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