Israel's Supreme Court Doubles Sentence of Border Policeman Who Shot and Killed Unarmed Palestinian Teen

Ben Dery was sentenced to nine months prison after admitting to shooting Nadim Nuwara in 2014 despite the fact that the Palestinian did not constitute an immediate threat to his life

Nadim Nuwara (center) a moment after being shot in Beitunia, May 15, 2014.
Reuters

Israel's Supreme Court on Sunday doubled the nine-month sentence of a former border policeman who was convicted of shooting to death an unarmed Palestinian teenager.

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Dery will serve 18 months behind bars. The decision to double his sentence was accepted by a majority of two judges against the opinion of a third judge. 

"The case before us does raise a difficulty in examining the verdict that was given," Judge Solberg, who presided over the ruling with two other judges, wrote. "This is because we are dealing with a case where he value of human life and the value of preserving purity of arms collide with considerations regarding Dery's personal circumstances and the background leading to his actions. Taking the rule into one's own hands, consciously deciding to cause injury facing no danger- this must absolutely not be done." 

In April, the Jerusalem District Court as part of a plea agreement sentenced Ben Dery for shooting to death of Nadim Nuwara, 17, at the Beitunia checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah in 2014. He was also fined 50,000 shekels. Under the deal, he was charged with causing death through negligence and causing severe bodily harm instead of the original charge of manslaughter.

In reading out the sentence, Judge Daniel Tepperberg called the accused’s act “severe,” saying that the “degree of negligence was significant and warranted prison time." 

In fact, the judge gave a sentence that was on the lower end of what is considered acceptable for the crime — between eight months to two years imprisonment. He explained this by noting the accused had cooperated in forging a plea agreement and noted the fact that he had no previous criminal record. The judge described Dery as “an excellent police officer who was conscientious about orders. Those around him valued him.” 

The incident occurred on May 15, Nakba Day, when Palestinians mark the loss of their homeland in 1948. Dery’s company was stationed in several places in Beitunia, near the Palestinian city of Ramallah. At 11 A.M. – together with other Border Police officers from his unit – Dery was on a terrace overlooking the road leading from Beitunia to the West Bank separation barrier and the checkpoint located there.

The indictment states that the officers were given clear orders to fire only rubber bullets at the demonstrators. Dery had an M-16 rifle with an attachment for firing rubber bullets. A magazine containing rubber bullets together with blanks was marked in red. Dery replaced the bullets in the marked magazine with live M-16 rounds. At 1:45 P.M., four minutes after Nuwara threw a stone at Israeli forces, Dery shot him in the chest, killing him.Soldiers at the scene said they had not fired live rounds, but only rubber bullets and teargas- and stun grenades. During the investigaiton by the Israel Defense Forces Central Command, it emerged that the troops who fired the live bullets were from the Border Police. Nuwara's autopsy showed clear evidence that live bullets had been fired.

Ben Dery in the Jerusalem District Court on April 25, 2018.
Emil salman

Siam Nuwara, the father of Nadim, told Haaretz that, "We are not surprised by the ridiculous sentence. As soon as the plea agreement was signed we knew that this was the direction. 

"It's interesting that the boy Ahmed Mansara, who was convicted, gets 13 years in prison," said Nuwara, referring to a 13-year-old Palestinian boy who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for stabbing a Jewish boy riding his bicycle in Jerusalem in October, 2015. The Supreme Court subsequently reduced Mansara's sentence to nine-and-a-half years.

"Meanwhile Ben Dery who murders – and I am convinced that he  intentionally committed murder – gets nine months and in the height of hutzpah I hear that they are considering appealing the severity of the sentence," said Nuwara."My boy was murdered in cold blood and we did the autopsy which was for us as though he was murdered a second time, and all this did not convince the court. That's because in the final analysis we are dealing with an entire system that discriminates on the basis of race and arrives at decisions that are far from just."