Death of Palestinian Woman at Bil'in Protest Goes to High Court

Jawaher Abu Rahmah died after inhaling tear gas fired the previous day to disperse demonstration staged in Bil'in.

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday will hear a petition demanding an IDF criminal investigation into the January 1, 2011 death of a Palestinian woman while a demonstration was taking place in the West Bank village of Bil'in.

Jawaher Abu Rahmah died after having inhaled tear gas fired the previous day to disperse a demonstration staged in Bil'in to protest the separation fence in the village area.

Conflicting accounts of the cause of her death quickly surfaced: Family members insisted she died in a Ramallah hospital from tear gas inhalation, while the Israel Defense Forces alleged she never took part in the demonstration and died of a form of cancer.

Responding to the petition, the state is relying on a report compiled by the Civil Administration, which disputes accounts that the woman died of gas asphyxiation.

The Civil Administration report is appended to the state's response to a High Court petition filed by Bil'in's popular committee and Abu Rahmah's mother. The report notes that "the corpse was moved from the hospital's emergency care room directly to burial, which was carried out with relative quiet, without the agitation they tend to display for 'shahids'."

In the report, Civil Administration health coordinator Dalia Bassa writes: "The medical information we received was written out fully, in neat and clear handwriting - which is unusual with them, and which is confounding. Usually the medical information we receive from them is abbreviated, and written with a haste and carelessness that reflects occurrences such as these [Jawaher was brought in by ambulance to the intensive care unit] and we also receive X-rays ... the purpose being to prove the culpability of our soldiers."

The Abu Rahmah family's attorneys and the Bil'in popular committee state that "the insistence by the IDF's military advocate general even today, a year-and-a-half after Jawaher's tragic death, to prevent at any price a clarification of the facts of her unnecessary death, is disturbing and dangerous. The present disclosure that the decision was based in part on unprofessional impressions, and filled with the prejudiced opinions of the Civil Administration's health coordinator, casts an even darker shadow over the resistance to an investigation."

Palestinian protesters in Bil'in.
Moti Milrod
Jawaher Abu Rahma