Family of Shot Palestinian Teen Petitions High Court for Autopsy

Israeli Border Police say boy tried to stab officers; insist there is no suspicion of troop misconduct.

Olivier Fitoussi

The family of a Palestinian teen shot dead by the Border Police has filed a petition to the High Court of Justice demanding that the police order an autopsy. The police say he tried to stab officers before he was shot.

The boy, 16-year-old Moatez Awisat, a resident of East Jerusalem’s Jabal Mukkaber neighborhood, was killed five months ago in the adjacent Armon Hanatziv neighborhood. The police say a Jewish passerby noticed the boy acting suspiciously and reported him to the Border Police.

The force ordered Awisat to show his ID card. Immediately after taking it out, he drew a large kitchen knife and tried to stab officers, the police say, adding that one of them was grazed in the hand. The police opened fire and killed him. That day, the police presented pictures of the knife Awisat allegedly wielded.

The police have held Awisat’s body since the incident and set conditions for its release for burial. The police refuse to conduct an autopsy and insist there is no suspicion of misconduct on the part of the troops.

According to the petition, the police have agreed to release the body to the family on condition that it be delivered directly to the cemetery without offering a chance for an autopsy.

Rights groups Adalah and Al-Dameer filed the petition on behalf of the family. According to the petition, Awisat’s relatives do not know anything about the causes of his death, but they have doubts about the police’s version.

“Preventing an autopsy, even privately by the deceased’s parents, methodically breaches the honor of the dead, the right of the family to honor and the right of [Awisat's] family to know the reasons for his death, as well as the principle of the rule of law,” the petition states.

“The police’s handling of this matter raises suspicions of an attempt to prevent the discovery of the truth, and to prevent an effective investigation into the deceased’s killing. To discover the truth in the case is a question of public importance of the first degree.”

The state has yet to respond to the petition. The police note that the body is in a pathological institute.

“The family recently turned to a court asking for an autopsy. The court rejected their petition and accepted the police's position that there was no suspicion whatsoever of wrongdoing in the death of the terrorist and that his death was justified, so there is no justification for an autopsy,” the police said in a statement.

“After the rejection of the petition, the family submitted a private request to the institute for a self-funded autopsy. The police are not a party to this request and stand behind the officers who carried out a justified shooting to save civilians. Therefore, the police do not oppose the private autopsy.”