Warning: This article includes graphic images
A Palestinian woman from East Jerusalem underwent surgery to implant a metal plate in her skull after a Border Police officer allegedly hit her with his rifle butt. However, when she complained to the Justice Ministry’s department that investigates police officers, they tried to convince her that she was struck by a rock.
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Interrogators have claimed some of the questions that were asked during her deposition were "meant to ameliorate the investigation, and certainly do not testify to its results."
Rina Darbas, 36, said the incident occurred six weeks ago, when she tried to protect her son and keep him from being arrested by the police in Isawiyah neighborhood. The police held her 14-year-old son, demanding to check his shirt and shoes to see if they matched the description of a person suspected of throwing rocks at them.
Darbas and her husband overheard one officer say that their son was not the suspect they were looking for – but they put him in their patrol car anyway.
According to the deposition Darbas signed before her attorney, she tried to pull the boy away, to no avail, and when she tried to speak to one of the officers in the patrol car, he forcefully hit her with the butt end of his rifle. Darbas lost consciousness and was admitted to the hospital, where she underwent a complicated surgery to implant a metal plate in her skull, and will likely need plastic surgery as well.
“Every time she looks in the mirror, she starts to cry,” said her husband, Karim Darbas.
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“My life is ruined. I suffer from pain in my head and my face. My life has become a nightmare,” Darbas wrote in her deposition.
Police have since then said that at the time of the incident, firebombs and rocks were hurled at the officers in Isawiyah, and claimed Darbas fell victim to one of the stray stones.
Darbas’ son, suspected of throwing rocks, was released after four days in detention. No formal charges have been submitted against him.
A day after the incident, her husband contacted the Justice Ministry's police investigations department to file a formal complaint. He said they rejected his complaint and said only his wife could open a file. After having been released from the hospital, Darbas went to the department herself, but said she was treated dismissively by personnel there.
“The interrogator made it hard for me to explain what happened,” according to her deposition. “He asked for details about the soldier and asked me to draw a picture of the weapon. How would I know to do such a thing? He tried to put words in my mouth, to get me to say that I was hit by a rock, and he even tried to convince me that the soldier had hit me by accident when he raised his arm with the rifle to protect me from a rock that was thrown at me. I told him there was no rock-throwing going on there.”
Shortly after Haaretz inquired about the status of the case, Darbas' attorney received an answer from the department to the effect that the case is still under investigation. However, some hours later, another source informed the attorney that a case had not yet been opened.
The Justice Ministry’s department denied Darbas’ claims and said it opened the case file immediately after her husband came in to file a complaint. Its interrogation was meant to clarify events – not to hurt the complainant, it said.
The Border Police commented that “It emerges that during the weekend in question, 24 firebombs as well as fireworks and rocks were thrown at police forces at the scene in question, which is apparently how the local resident was hurt.”