Why won’t Israel allow autopsy on youth killed by police?

Israeli occupation forces in Jabal al-Mukabir, a Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem, on 19 October.

Mahfouz Abu Turk APA images

A refusal by the Israeli police to allow an autopsy on a young Palestinian killed by its officers indicates a cover-up.

On 17 October, Mutaz Uweisat was killed by the police in Armon Hanatziv, an Israeli settlement in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israeli police have alleged that the 16-year-old boy tried to stab a border guard.

Palestinian human rights groups are calling for an investigation of the officer implicated in the killing.

In a request submitted earlier this month, the two groups, Adalah and Addameer, also urged that an autopsy be carried out in the presence of a medical officer approved by the Uweisat family.

Five days after submitting the request, Adalah issued a statement saying that the police had refused to perform an autopsy and that an Israeli court in Jerusalem had refused to order one. The police had decided to close its examinations of the incident, the group reported.

The Israeli authorities have still not handed over Mutaz’s body to his family. They have similarly refused to return, or delayed returning, the bodies of many other Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.

Israel’s refusal to allow an investigation into the incident makes its account impossible to verify. A number of other recent allegations made by the Israeli authorities against young Palestinians shot dead by its forces have turned out to be inaccurate.

Questionable incidents

Amjad Iraqi, an Adalah campaigner, said that the authorities are displaying a similar attitude in this case as they did after Fadi Alloun was shot dead by Israeli police near the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City last month. While the police also accused Alloun of trying to stab Israelis, video evidence proves that he was unarmed at the time he was shot.

“There is little interest on their part to conduct proper investigations into these very questionable incidents,” Iraqi said. “And they are refusing requests for independent autopsies to ensure that the authorities are giving truthful information about the victims.”

Mutaz hailed from Jabal al-Mukabir, an East Jerusalem area that neighbors the Armon Hanatziv settlement.

His killing follows the recent relaxation of the rules under which Israeli forces may open fire with powerful Ruger rifles.

“Targeting teenagers”

Senior police representatives have also publicly stated that officers may shoot to kill.

Moshe Edri, the Jerusalem district commander with the Israeli police, last month praised officers who shot dead a Palestinian. Edri stated that “anyone who stabs Jews or hurts innocents — his due is to be killed.”

Amnesty International has found that Israeli forces have dramatically increased their use of ammunition against Palestinians since 1 October. More than 85 Palestinians have been killed in that period.

Amnesty has documented a number of instances in which Palestinian youths were killed by Israeli forces when they did not present any imminent threat to life, and says the slayings amount to extrajudicial executions.

Alia Al Ghussain is a British-Palestinian born and raised in Dubai. She holds an MA in human rights from the University of Sussex.