Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said Sunday that he would not indict the police officers involved in the deaths of 13 Arab civilians during the riots of October 2000.
Mazuz released an official legal opinion Sunday, reinforcing a decision made by the Justice Ministry's Police Investigations Department (PID) in September 2005 to close the investigation into the case.
Israeli Arabs were rioting in solidarity with the Palestinian Intifada which had just begun in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. During the riots, which lasted some ten days, 12 Israeli Arabs and one Palestinian resident of the Gaza Strip were shot and killed by police and security forces during violent demonstrations at the entrance to Umm al-Fahm.
In his official report, Mazuz said that in addition to many evidentiary problems that stem from the long period of time that has passed since the incident, "we had to take into consideration the fact that the incident involved the use of operational judgment in an emergency situation, under circumstances that don't justify the casting of criminal blame, as opposed to the taking of command procedures."
Mazuz added to the document he released a report written by the state prosecution team, headed by Assistant State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, which details over 500 pages the evidence gathered in the case and the difficulties that arose over the course of the investigation. The team, which included five attorneys, dedicated its efforts over thousands of hours to the examination of evidence and reports compiled by the Or Commission, which was appointed to investigate the riots. Dozens of meetings were held, some attended by the attorney general.
The release of the official ruling on the proceedings in the case was delayed by approximately one year, after the The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which is considered a complainant in the matter, submitted a report in late 2006 to the State Prosecution in which it claimed that PID has ignored the recommendations of the Or Commission by failing to investigate the deaths. The report called for the immediate prosecution of the officers involved.
Mazuz said Sunday that the official document he wrote includes specific responses to the claims raised by Adalah in the 2006 report.
Adalah: We will seek an international legal ruling against this decision
Adalah held a press conference Sunday evening with the families of the 13 victims and the head of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee Shuweiki Hatib. The organization announced that they have no intention of petitioning the High Court of Justice over this matter, but rather they announced their plan to seek international legal mediation.
The General Director of Adalah Hassan Jabareen said "we won't petition the high court. We have exhausted the proceedings in Israel. This [decision] does not stem from irritation or feelings of the heart, but rather from legal motives," explaining that the organization has lost its faith in the Israeli legal system in this case.
Jabareen added that the organization will seek the involvement of the United Nations as well as "foreign nations which have the authority to rule on universal matters," meaning nations whose legal system allows them to try people who committed crimes in other countries.
Jabareen said that most of the shooting toward the civilians during the riots was unjustified, and added that Arabs mustn't be viewed as an enemy.
Hatib said in regard to Mazuz' decision that "this is a black day for justice, human rights and the aspiration for equality and respect between peoples. Mazuz, with unprecedented inflexibility, legitimized the murder."
Arab MKs furious over Mazuz's decision
Israeli Arab MKs also expressed outrage over Mazuz's decision on Sunday. MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) suggested the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee appoint a delegation to submit an official complaint against Israel at the United Nations. He also called for a general strike in the Israeli Arab sector. "Mazuz legitimized the murders of our sons. It is our right and duty to take this to the international courts," he said.
MK Talab el-Sana (United Arab List) said, "This is a black day for Israeli democracy. The government attorney general has joined the snipers and the assassins and is shooting at the dead body of Israeli justice. The evil decisions place the state and it institutions on the guilty bench. The Jewish state murders its Arab citizens and acquits the murderers."
MK Ahmed Tibi (Ta'al) said in response to the report that Israeli "racism is geared toward the living Arab and the dead Arab," and Mohammed Barakeh of Hadash said Mazuz's decision was in line with the "shady record of the man."
Labor Minister Raleb Majadele contributed to the criticisms, calling it "inconceivable that civilians are killed by security forces and no one is being tried... the decision will destroy the basis of trust between with Arab citizens and the state.