“In my mind, this was a murder and the policeman should be facing a murder charge, with the possibility of receiving a life sentence,” said Siam Nuwara. “A Palestinian arrested under these circumstances would be facing murder charges, with the possibility of life imprisonment, and his family’s home would be demolished.”
Nuwara, speaking to the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), was reacting to the news that Israeli authorities on Sunday charged a Border Police officer with the “manslaughter” of his son.
Israeli media have not reported the name of the suspect due to a “gag order.”
The same day, at almost the same spot, another teen, Muhammad Abu al-Thahir, was fatally shot in almost exactly the same manner, and his killing too was captured on video.
Under Israeli law, a person responsible for an unlawful killing should face either murder or manslaughter charges. Murder requires that the killing be premeditated, and carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of twenty years, but it can be as little as six months.
The manslaughter charge came just days after a forensic analysis of video and other evidence, commissioned by Defence for Children International–Palestine (DCI-Palestine), pinpointed an image of the Israeli gunman who shot Nuwara with live ammunition.
The analysis performed by the multidisciplinary UK-based research group Forensic Architecture suggests that the shooter fired a live bullet through a rubber-bullet extension on his rifle, possibly in a deliberate attempt to conceal his action.
That, and the fact that two boys were killed and a third injured with live ammunition, certainly provides grounds for reasonable suspicion of premeditation by someone.
“Lies and cover-up attempts”
“The prosecution of a member of the security forces for killing a Palestinian protester is an unusual occurrence, even though the use of live fire against Palestinian demonstrators has become almost routine in recent months,” Israel’s Haaretz noted in an editorial on the case today.
“In this case too, the defense establishment initially responded to the suspicions that were raised immediately after Nuwara’s death with lies and cover-up attempts,” the newspaper added.
Israeli authorities “were quick to claim that no live bullets had been fired in the incident, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon hurried to call the demonstration that day ‘a violent incident in which incendiary devices and stones were thrown at Border Policemen who felt their lives were in danger and acted accordingly. I know how these videos are edited,’” Haaretz stated.
“It must now be hoped that the court will prosecute to the full extent of the law the person who is accused of swapping out the plastic-tipped bullets in his rifle for a magazine with live bullets and shooting in the chest a teenager who was standing at a great distance from him and who posed no danger to him,” Haaretz said.
Unlikely to end impunity
But seasoned observers of the Israeli legal system are highly doubtful.
“It is unlikely that this case will alter a longstanding Israeli policy of offering impunity to Israeli soldiers and police who use lethal force on children,” Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director of DCI-Palestine said in a statement to IMEU.
“There is a bulk of evidence showing that Nadim was fatally shot with live ammunition while posing no threat to Israeli forces. It remains to be seen whether the individual responsible will receive a penalty that is consistent with the gravity of this act,” Abu Eqtaish added.
He noted that no one has yet been charged with the killing of Muhammad Abu al-Thahir, although Israeli media reported last week that the same border policeman is a suspect in that killing as well.
Since the start of 2014, DCI-Palestine states, Israeli forces have killed eight other children in the occupied West Bank with live ammunition. “None of their killers has been brought to justice and held accountable,” Abu Eqtaish said.
Indeed, it seems likely that the only reason any charges have been brought at all in this particular case is the high level of international publicity, due to the existence of so much video evidence, and the fact that the United States government issued a rare call for an investigation.
As The Electronic Intifada previously reported, the border policeman accused of killing Nadim Nuwara has been hailed as a hero by many Israelis, with more than 25,000 people “Liking” a Facebook page dedicated to backing him, and others turning up at the courthouse to rally in his support and call for death to Arabs.