Adalah inquires into Mahash investigations following Or Commission

On 14 September 2003, Adalah sent a letter to the Director of the Ministry of Justice Police Investigation Unit (“Mahash”), Attorney Herzel Shviro, inquiring as to whether Mahash intends to investigate the police regarding the killings and injuries of Palestinian citizens of Israel during the October 2000 protest demonstrations.

This request follows Adalah’s correspondence on this subject with Attorney General Elyakim Rubenstein and Mahash, immediately after the events of October 2000, and most recently, the Or Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations to Mahash to investigate 10 specific deaths and injuries. The letter was prepared by Adalah Attorney
Marwan Dalal.

Immediately after the killings of 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel and the injury of hundreds of other individuals during the October 2000 protest demonstrations, Adalah sent several letters to the Attorney General and to Mahash demanding that investigations be opened. The Attorney General has the authority to order Mahash to open investigations into potential criminal conduct by the police; the director of Mahash is subordinate to the Attorney General. In its replies, Mahash claimed that only a small number of complaints had been filed and that it was not receiving cooperation from the victims’ family members. Mahash also requested that Adalah provide all information in its possession to Mahash regarding the circumstances of the killings and injuries. The Attorney General responded to Adalah’s demand, noting that a committee of examination, and later an official commission of inquiry had been established by the government to investigate these occurrences.

Adalah argued in this exchange of letters, in October and November 2000, that it was the state’s legal responsibility to conduct prompt and impartial investigations in these cases, regardless of whether or not complaints had been filed or family members wished to cooperate. Mahash had access to autopsy reports of four Arab victims, as well as to all police records and police personnel. Further, Mahash had the duty and the power to obtain all information necessary, including the authority to oblige police officials and officers allegedly involved in the events of October 2000 to appear before investigators to give statements and to produce other physical and documentary evidence. Adalah also argued that under Israeli law, the establishment of a commission of inquiry does not preclude conducting a criminal investigation.

On 1 September 2003, the Or Commission of Inquiry issued its final report. The Commission specifically recommended that Mahash investigate 10 events that occurred in October 2000:

1. The death of the late Rami Ghara in the village of Jatt on 1 October 2000.
2. The death incidences of the late Ahmed Ibrahim Jabareen and the late Mohammed Ahmed Jabareen in Umm al-Fahem on 1 October 2000.
3. The claims of the use of excessive force by the police towards Nazim Omar Taha, 21, in Kufr Kana on 2 October 2000.
4. The shooting incident committed by Guy Raif in the Petros Factory area, which caused the deaths of the late Walid Abu Saleh and the late Emad Ghanaym on 2 October 2000.
5. The death incident of the late Eyad Lawabny in Nazareth on 2 October 2000.
6. The death incident of the late Asel Asleh near Lotem junction on 2 October 2000.
7. The lethal injury incident of the late Ala’a Nassar near Lotem junction on 2 October 2000.
8. The circumstances of the late Mohammad Khamayseh’s death in Kufr Kana on 3 October 2000.
9. The lethal injury incident of the late Ramez Bushnaq in Kufr Manda on 3 October 2000.
10. The incidents on 2 October 2000 (Umm al-Fahem and Nazareth) and on 3 October 2000 (Nazareth) in which shooting by police snipers occurred.
11. One of the “incidents” on 2 October 2000 in Umm al-Fahem in which “shooting by police snipers occurred,” was the shooting of Misleh Hussein Abu Jarad, 19, from Dir el-Balah, Gaza, who lived and worked in Umm al-Fahem. Abu Jarad was shot in the chest and died instantly.

In the letter, Adalah further inquired into to the status of two other Mahash investigations currently underway. According to the Commission’s report, these investigations are: “… the shooting on Banks Street in Nazareth on 2 October 2000 and the Nazareth mall event on 8 October 2000.” The Commission noted that it did not make specific recommendations regarding these occurrences, as Mahash had already opened investigations. The shooting on Banks Street refers to the police shooting at Dr. Amer and Mrs. Marlen Ramadan, while they were driving in their car in Nazareth on the evening of 2 October 2000. Mrs. Ramadan was seriously injured.

The Nazareth mall event refers to a gathering of hundreds of Jewish residents of Natseret Illit at a junction near the Eastern neighborhood of Nazareth. At the time, Arab residents of Nazareth found tens of young Jewish men attacking houses in the vicinity. The police closed the junction, but did nothing else to cease the attacks on Arab residents and their property; in fact, the police directed their guns at the Arab residents.

Omar Mohammad A’kkawi, 42, was shot in the chest by the police that evening, and died the same day. Wissam Yazbak, 25, one of the men helping to hold back the crowd, was shot in the back of the head by police, and died the same night.