Haaretz Editorial

A Certificate of Bad Conduct

Police indicted and kept a teenager in jail for many months even though the teen's DNA didn't match that of the attacker,

It's the nature of the law enforcement and legal authorities' work that innocent people sometimes fall victim to false arrest or are even wrongly convicted. In such cases, justice and morality obligate those responsible to be held accountable for their negligence, while their superiors must conduct a thorough inquiry and make every effort to prevent recurrences. But the case of an Israeli woman raped in the south Hebron Hills exemplifies the opposite approach on the part of the Israel Police with regard to both taking responsibility for and learning from behavior that bordered on criminal negligence toward a minor.

In Monday's Haaretz, Chaim Levinson revealed that in March, police arrested a 16-year-old Palestinian shepherd who was picked out of a lineup by the Israeli woman, a resident of the area, who had been brutally raped and beaten by two unknown people. Even though the teen's DNA didn't match that of the attacker, he was indicted and kept in jail for many months.

Only after a military court judge intervened did the police reopen the investigation. They then succeeded in tracking down two new suspects, and discovered that a DNA sample from one of them matched that taken from the crime scene. The man confessed to the crime, and he and his friend were indicted.

In response to the Haaretz report, the commander of the Hebron area police, Commander Yitzhak Rahamim, announced that he had decided to award a certificate of appreciation to the police team that investigated the crime. The senior officer praised the team's professionalism and devotion to duty, and denounced the paper for having published the report. Instead of conducting a thorough internal inquiry into how an innocent man was put on trial, and using it to learn lessons for the future, the police's Shai District (which includes the Hebron area ) opted to extol its failure.

One would expect Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino to order Commander Rahamim to rescind the certificate of appreciation, and to use this case to review the basic rules of behavior toward suspects, and especially minors, with his men. He must remind them that Palestinians, too, deserve fair treatment. Finally, the errant investigators ought to be suspended until the end of an inquiry into the incident and ordered to apologize to the teenager whose dignity and liberty they violated due to no fault of his own.