Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Israelís High Court delays justice for deaths in the Abu Rahmeh family

By Emily Mulder - June 25, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation] [Features]
Tags: [Bilíin] [Ashraf Abu Rahmeh] [Bassem Abu Rahmeh] [Jawaher Abu Rahmeh] [Israeli Justice System] [Israeli Supreme Court]

Bassem Abu Rahmeh protesting in Bil'in. Photo by Lazar Simeonov.


Two members of the Abu Rahmeh family were killed on separate occasions during demonstrations in Bil’in, a West Bank village near Ramallah. A third was shot while being held by Israeli soldiers at nearby Ni’lin village.

In all three cases, the Abu Rahmeh family faced initial refusal by the Israeli military to open investigations, avid denial of events regardless of clear evidence, followed by continual delays in court hearings and investigations.  
The family’s experiences in the court highlights justice as unattainable for Palestinians within the Israeli legal system.
The Abu Rahmeh family’s first experiences with Israeli courts began after their son Ashraf abu-Rahmeh took part in a demonstration in Nil’in in July 2007.  
During the protest he was detained by Israeli soldiers, handcuffed and blindfolded, and shot at point blank range in the foot with a rubber-coated steel bullet..  The soldiers stated their goal was to frighten Ashraf.
The shooter, Staff Sgt. Leonardo Corea, claimed he was ordered to shoot Ashraf by his commander, Lt. Col. Omri Burberg. 
Human rights group B’Tselem received video footage of the shooting and contacted Ashraf to open an investigation.  
Hollow verdicts
After three years of court hearings, Burberg and Corea were charged with “unbecoming conduct.” Burberg’s promotion was postponed for two years, while Israeli press reported that Corea was discharged and demoted.
The Rahmeh family believes Corea’s termination was not a consequence for his actions but rather a pre-set end date to his service in the army. 
After recounting the details of the event, Ashraf told the Palestine Monitor that he never intended to take his case to court. He views the process as pointless, the courts as illegal, and holds no desire to participate in the courts of those who are occupying his land.
The hollow verdict in Ashraf’s case would be repeated with the Israeli response to the deaths of his brother and sister. 
The family entered the courts once again after Ashraf’s brother, Bassem Abu Rahmeh, was killed in April 2009 while non-violently protesting the occupation’s theft of his land in Bil’in. 
An Israeli soldier shot Bassem directly in the chest with a high velocity tear gas canister from a distance of about 20 meters.
The Israeli military claimed no responsibility for the event, and refused to conduct a Military Police Investigation. 
Following expert analysis of footage of the shooting, the case was eventually taken to the High Court in July 2010.  
The case has not yet been resolved and no decisions to prosecute Bassem’s alleged murderer have been made.

Bassem Abu Rahmah moments after being fatally shot by an Israeli soldier in Bil'in. Photo by Lazar Simeonov.
Non violent protest movement
The family has been active in protesting the wall because their village, Bil’in, has been a leader in the non-violent protest movement since Israel began construction of its 'Separation Wall’ in February 2005.
Palestinians, international activists and Israeli activists began protesting weekly as a response to the wall built by Israel, which separates villagers from their farmland.
Israel claims the wall is necessary for security reasons, but the Abu Rahmeh family believes construction of the wall functions both as a land grab and protection for Israeli settlers living illegally on Palestinian land.
Despite everything the family had endured, the Abu Rahmehs continued to protest on a weekly basis.
Tragedy struck yet again on 31 December 2010, when Ashraf and Bassem’s sister, Jawaher, was hospitalized following severe tear gas exposure at a protest in Bil’in.  She died the next morning.
The cause of her death continues to be debated. The Israeli army claims other factors, such as pre-existing illness, as cause for her death instead of the tear gas.
After petitioning the High Court, a case was opened which has been underway for over two years with no result.
“No justice”
The most recent push by the Abu Rahmeh family to resolve the cases was in March 2013, when the mother filed a petition to the High Court of Justice, urging the court to reach a decision on Bassem’s case, which has lasted for more than four years. 
The Abu Rahmeh family’s experience in the courts is by no means unique. Palestinians and human rights groups do not file claims with Israeli courts expecting justice.
The military law which governs the occupied territories and judges IDF members has incredibly wide discretion, and perpetrators of violence against Palestinians are usually granted impunity. Rights groups say they go through the court process to highlight this impunity.
From 2000-2012, human rights group Yesh-Din reports that of 2,207 investigations opened by the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division, only 117 Israeli personnel were indicted, about 5% of the total files opened.
Ahmad Abu-Rahmeh, brother of Bassem, Jawahar, and Ashraf, said the family will continue to endure the court hearings, not because they believe it will yield any results, but rather to prove the ineffectiveness of the courts in reaching legitimate resolutions.  
“The cases will keep going in court, and in the end they will not give the Palestinians any rights...the trials teach us all the time that the court intends to preserve the soldiers’ rights, but forgets the rights of the Palestinians,”  Ahmed told the Palestine Monitor.
From their experiences, the Rahmeh family and advocacy groups are left with the conclusion that investigations by the High Court are merely a facade, in which the Israeli military can demonstrate the existence of a process designed to right the wrongs committed by Israeli personnel, albeit one that does not actually punish and/or prevent illegal actions of Israeli military and police.
Rights groups fear the continual prolonging of cases, such as the Abu Rahmeh’s, in Israel’s High Court of Justice signals to members of the Israeli military a de-facto legal endorsement of otherwise illegal acts that can be carried out against Palestinians in the occupied territories.
The frustration of Ahmad Abu Rahmeh embodies the blatant inequity towards Palestinians in the High Court when he states, “ the end it’s an occupation court, so the resolution will be for the occupation, not for the Palestinians. They don’t have justice.”

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