February 21, 2013
The use of live ammunition by the Israeli army is a growing trend that has led to the deaths of five Palestinian youths in 2013 already.
Sadly for the families of the youths killed, it is unlikely they will ever see justice. Alongside the rising death rate there is a growing trend of impunity amongst the Israeli army.
Palestine Monitor recently reported on the case of Oday Qadous, whose death at the hands of a settler in Iraq Burin remains unpunished two years on. The lack of accountability for killing a Palestinian also extends to the Israeli military.
Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organization dealing with legal accountability for crimes against Palestinians published a damning report on the impunity of Israeli soldiers on February 2.
Of the 240 complaints submitted to the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division (MPCID) regarding suspected criminal offences committed against Palestinians or their property by Israeli soldiers in 2012, only 75 criminal investigations were opened.
None of these led to an indictment. In the entire last year there was only one indictment although this was following an investigation opened in 2011. From a combined total of 492 complaints filed to the MPCID in the last two years there has been only 1 indictment.
In 2011 around 60% of complaints led to an investigation; in 2012 this number fell by a third. The year of 2012 saw only 40% of complaints leading to the opening of a criminal investigation.
It remains very difficult for Palestinians to file complaints as there is no MPCID base in either the West Bank of Gaza. To raise a case a complaint must be filed first. With the restrictions placed upon the movement of Palestinian citizens in the West Bank and Gaza it is almost impossible for them to personally submit their complaint in Israel. Therefore of all the 240 notifications the MPCID received only six were presented by Palestinians directly. The victims had to rely on the cooperation of mediating bodies in all other cases.
Despite the increase in impunity, the culture of impunity operating in the military has been a recurrent theme in the Israel/Palestine conflict. Since the beginning of the First Intifada in September 2000 there have been a total of only 117 indictments out of the 2,207 investigations opened regarding suspected criminal offences committed against Palestinians or their property by Israeli soldiers. That is a five percent indictment rate, whereas for the years 2009-2011 there was only a 2.62 % indictment rate for the investigations opened.
Lior Yavne, Director of Research at Yesh Din, commented on the findings: "The numerous defects in MPCID investigations of offenses against Palestinians, and in the Military Advocate General Corps’ supervision of the investigations, result in the closure of the vast majority of the files and a minimal number of indictments being served. This creates a feeling of lawlessness on the ground, which may be a central contributing factor in the rise in the number of killings over recent weeks."
Lack of justice in the case of Mustafa Tamini and Bassem Abu- Rahmah
Mustafa Tamini was killed on December 10, 2011 by a tear gas canister. The canister was shot at close range by an Israeli soldier during a demonstration in Nabi Saleh, a protest village in the West Bank. Mustafa died from injuries to the head the following day.
B’Tselem contacted the Military Advocate for Operational matter Lt. Col. Ronen Hirsch to demand clarification of the status of the case around the first anniversary of Tamimi’s death.
Mustafa Tamimi after being fatally shot with a tear gas canister by an Israeli soldier. Photo by Lazar Simeonov.
The organization submitted a complaint the day the incident took place. The Military Police Investigations Unit in Jerusalem supposedly opened an investigation two days later. However B’Tselem released a press release informing the public that a year on there has yet to be a decision on whether to announce a judgment or close the case.
Noa Tal, Director of the Data Department at B’Tselem noted in her letter to the relevant bodies, "The longer the process is drawn out, the greater the damage to the prospects for an effective criminal procedure, inter-alia because some of the evidence will no longer exist and the witnesses’ recollections are liable to be less acute. Thus grave harm is done to the principle of the rule of law and the deterrent value for discouraging similar acts in the future."
The case of Mustafa Tamini bears similarities to the case of Bassem Abu- Rahmah who was also killed in April 2009 after being hit with a tear gas canister. Bassem was shot with the canister during a protest at Bi’lin, a resistance village near Ramallah. The Judge Advocate General, Maj.-Gen Avichai Mandelblit closed the investigation in June 2010 after determining that the canister was not intentionally aimed at Abu Rahmeh.
"Hundreds of witnesses saw Bassem call out to the soldier, 'Hold your fire! Hold your fire!' He was hit from six meters (about 20 feet) away by a canister that is supposed to be fired from a distance of two kilometers (1.24 miles) – and the army still decided to close the case," said his brother Ashraf Abu Rahmeh to Ynet news.
Bassem Abu Rahme after being fatally shot with a tear gas canister by an Israeli soldier. Photo by Lazar Simeonov.
However after pressure from the family’s attorney, Michael Sfard, who threatened to petition the High Court of Justice, the findings of forensic special imaging experts and a B’Tselem produced in-depth investigation supported by video footage, the case was reopened.
B’Tselem told the Palestine Monitor that they were informed that investigation had been completed and the file was "awaiting decision" The organization, along with Michael Sfard have written to the authorities to demand a decision, and will file a petition to the High Court if one is not reached.
In July 2008, before Bassem’s death, Israeli soldiers in the nearby village of Ni’lin detained his brother Ashraf. The soldiers tied him up, blindfolded him and, as their commander watched, shot him in the foot at close range with a rubber-coated steel bullet.
Ashraf's case went to the Israeli Supreme Court where a strong indictment against the commander was unanimously ordered. According to Al Jazeera the soldier who committed the deed was put under investigation, but just two weeks later the charges against him were dropped and he resumed duty.