Palestinian Mother Demands IDF Decision on Son's Death in West Bank Protest 4 Years Ago

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The mother of Bassem Abu Rahma, a 30-year-old Palestinian man killed after being hit by a tear gas canister while demonstrating against the separation fence in Bil'in in 2009, filed an appeal on Sunday with Israel's High Court of Justice requesting a decision on whether to indict the soldiers involved in her son's death.

Soubhiya Abu Rahma is asking that the court order Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Danny Efroni to reach a decision whether or not to indict the soldiers and Border Police involved in firing the tear gas canister that ended her son's life.

Soubhiya Abu Rahma filed her appeal together with the Bil'in council and the human rights organizations B'Tselem and Yesh Din. In her appeal, she noted that almost four years had gone by since her son's death and more than two and a half years had passed since the military police had opened an investigation into the incident. However, there still had been no decision reached by the Military Advocate General on whether to indict those who had been involved in the firing of the canister or to close the file against them. The appellants stated that Efroni's failure to reach a decision in the case was "unreasonable to the extreme."

The April 2009 demonstration during which Bassem Abu Rahma was killed is captured in the documentary "5 Broken Cameras," which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2012.

The appeal, which was filed by attorneys Emily Schaeffer and Michael Sfard, stated that under international law there is an obligation to conduct an effective investigation without delay and to complete it with reasonable speed. They stated that the foot-dragging in the case was a dangerous failure that would send a message to IDF soldiers and Border Police that they wouldn't be held criminally responsible if they were involved in the killing of demonstrators.

"There is no doubt that this problem harms the effectiveness of these investigations and harms in practice the likelihood that the truth will be made clear and justice will be done," the attorneys wrote in the appeal.

The attorneys claimed that three video clips that captured the incident showed that Abu Rahma had not acted violently and did not endanger the well-being of the soldiers. They claimed that the soldiers fired at him in violation of the instructions regarding when it was permissible to open fire.

"The appellants hold in their hearts a harsh feeling toward the minimal measure of protection provided by the military prosecution to innocent civilians harmed due to the illegal use of arms during a purely civilian event," the appeal stated. "The slowness of the decision-making process on the side of the respondent, the dangerous message that is engendered by these delays, the injustice done to the Abu Rahma's family, acquaintances and loved ones – all these things do not leave the appellants with any other choice but to request that aid of the honorable court. Not just on behalf of Abu Rahma's relatives is a decision regarding the investigation field requested. This step is required for a regime that respects the value of human life and the value of the rule of law."

A Palestinian demonstrator waves a flag next to Israeli soldiers during a protest at the construction site of Israel's separation barrier in the village of Bil'in.Credit: AP
Bassem Abu Rahmeh on the ground near Bil’in after being hit by an IDF tear gas canister in April 2009Credit: Lazar Simeonov

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