Israeli Soldiers' Indictment Over Palestinian's Death to Be Quashed

Decision made after court finds flaws in evidence, including that the defendants didn’t violate the rules of engagement in force in that part of the West Bank

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Samir Awad's grave following his funeral in Budrus in 2013.
Samir Awad's grave following his funeral in Budrus in 2013. Credit: Alex Levac
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

The State Proseuctor's Office plans to withdraw indictments against two former soldiers who were charged with shooting and killing a 16-year-old Palestinian five years ago.

Prosecutors made the decision after a court found significant holes in the evidence. Although the prosecution has not yet formally notified the court of the decision, sources familiar with the case confirmed that it had been made. The official notification is expected to be submitted on Tuesday.

The two soldiers, whose names are under a gag order, were charged with recklessness and negligence for shooting Samir Awad near the West Bank Palestinian town of Budrus. According to the indictment, Awad was situated between two fences separating Palestinian from Israeli territory when the two Israelis, an officer and a soldier, spotted him. They fired in the air, after which Awad climbed back over the first fence into Palestinian territory.

At that point, the soldier fired two more shots at Awad and the officer fired three. Awad died, but since law enforcement officials couldn’t determine which of the two killed him, the defendants were only charged with recklessness and negligence rather than the far more serious charge of causing death.

The main flaw in the evidence is that even according to prosecution witnesses, the defendants didn’t actually violate the rules of engagement that were in force in that particular part of the West Bank. Although Awad was shot in the back and was unarmed at the time, the soldiers were correctly carrying out standard procedure for arresting a suspect according to those rules.

A source familiar with the case said the evidentiary problem was the only reason for the decision to withdraw the indictment, and that the claim of selective enforcement raised by the soldiers’ lawyers had nothing to do with it. The soldiers's lawyers had argued that indictments weren’t filed in other, similar cases in which Palestinians had been shot and killed.

Gaby Lasky, a lawyer who represents the Awad family, commented: "[The decision to withdraw the charges was] another case of whitewashing the killing of Palestinians. A teenager was shot in the head with his back to the soldiers on his way to the village where he lives. There are no legal orders that permit shooting at the upper body under such circumstances, in which there is no danger to the lives of the soldiers or other people and no danger whatsoever. If there are rules of engagement that permit such shooting, then those rules themselves are illegal.”

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