'Most Israeli anti-Palestinian violence cases are closed'

Yesh Din: Only nine percent of investigations into Israeli citizen violence against Palestinians and their property result in indictments.

Bil'in demonstrators protestors slinging throwing rocks 311 (photo credit: AP)
Bil'in demonstrators protestors slinging throwing rocks 311
(photo credit: AP)
Only nine percent of investigations into Israeli citizen violence against Palestinians and their property result in indictments, Yesh Din charged on Wednesday.
The organization explained that over the last five years, it had followed 642 investigations by Judea and Samaria police into West Bank incidents of Israeli violence against Palestinians. It added that the actual number of incidents was higher, but it did not have that number.
Out of the 642 investigations, 539 were completed, said Yesh Din in a report issued on Wednesday.
In 48 of those cases, 9%, indictments were filed. Three cases were lost and never investigated. And 488 cases, 91%, were closed without indictment, either for lack of evidence and/or because investigators failed to find the suspects, Yesh Din said.
It added that in 11 of the 488 closed cases, the investigation was abandoned for “lack of public interest,” and two were closed because the suspect was “exempt from liability.”
In looking at the 642 incidents, 246 involved violence, 249 were about property damage, and 110 were instances where land was seized, Yesh Din said.
Most of the incidents of Israeli citizen violence against Palestinians involved beatings, stonethrowing and assaults with clubs, knives and rifles butts, as well as threats and other offenses, according to Yesh Din.
In 32 incidents, Israelis shot at Palestinians, leaving five dead and nine injured, said Yesh Din. Out of the five shooting deaths, one case is still under investigation, two results in indictments and two were closed without charges, said Yesh Din. In the nine incidents of shooting injury, one case is under investigation, one indictment was filed, and the other seven were closed.
“The findings suggest a chronic failure, especially in cases pertaining to violence and damage to property,” said Ziv Stahl of Yesh Din’s research department.
“Only a fraction of these cases result in indictments, and most of them are closed. This means there is a very slim chance that complaints filed by Palestinians for violence or property offenses carried out by Israelis will result in indictments,” he said.
The Judea and Samaria police district rejected the allegations on Wednesday, saying in a statement that it deals with “hundreds of cases each year [following] complaints by Palestinians of harm to them and their property by Israeli civilians. In some of the cases, evidence is collected during strenuous investigations by the units of the district, which allow for indictments to be brought against suspects.”
In 2009, the statement said, 21 indictments were served in cases involving alleged assault and vandalism against Palestinians by Israeli civilians; 19 indictments were served in 2010.
“The small quantity of indictments in these cases is not the result of a failure to investigate the complaints, as claimed by Yesh Din, but rather the result of objective grounds,” the statement said, noting the submission of complaints long after the alleged incident took place, which harms the police’s ability to gather evidence and locate witnesses.
In other cases, police added, legal difficulties arise in attempting to ascertain ownership of disputed land.
“Investigation cases are examined by the prosecution unit professionally, in accordance with standards set by the law – in other words, does the evidence in the case show that a criminal offense has been committed, and is there a reasonable chance of a conviction? “In accordance with these requirements, which set a reasonably high standard, indictments are submitted in court, and not according to other criteria, as presented by the Yesh Din organization,” police added.
Police said that a majority of appeals filed with the Appeals Department of the state prosecution against a decision not to file charges are rejected, due to an agreement by the department with the police’s decision in the case.
“Judea and Samaria police will continue to act with all the tools available to it to utilize investigation procedures in every case, in an equal, professional, and moral manner in order to gather evidence and submit indictments,” the statement added.
But Yesh Din’s legal counsel Michael Sfard said, “The law enforcement agencies’ lack of ability to protect Palestinians in the West Bank is a stain on Israeli society.
Yesh Din’s findings indicate that we have forsaken human beings who are under our control – and this has grave moral and legal implications.”
Yesh Din added that its work was necessary because it was the only source by which to understand how few indictments were handed out.