Israel: Time to Heed Victims' Call for Justice

NEW YORK, Oct. 4, 2010--Ten years after Israeli security forces killed 13 Palestinian demonstrators, 12 of them citizens of Israel, the families' calls for accountability have gone unanswered, the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) said today.

"Despite an official commission of inquiry which called for those responsible to be held to account, the families have faced a wall of impunity," said Habib Nassar, acting Director of ICTJ's Middle East and North Africa Program. "Israeli officials have failed to implement the recommendations of the Or Commission's report, and to provide an adequate remedy to the victims."

In October 2000, Palestinian citizens of Israel organized demonstrations around the country to protest the killing and injury of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) beginning September 29. Israeli security forces attempted to disperse the demonstrations by the use of rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition. Between October 1 and 8, 2000, Israeli security forces killed 13 Palestinian demonstrators and injured hundreds.

"The Or Commission found serious problems in the security forces' handling of demonstrations inside Israel in October 2000," said Anne Massagee, Senior Associate in ICTJ's MENA Program. "But to date, state officials have failed to implement the report's recommendations. The families deserve accountability from the state for the deaths of their relatives."

As the families’ legal representative, the Haifa-based human rights organization Adalah has raised grave concerns about the ongoing impunity in this case. Adalah General Director Hassan Jabareen stated, "After ten years and a clear finding by an official commission of inquiry that criminal investigations should be opened to indict those responsible for the killings in October 2000, the Attorney General of Israel did not find any police officer, commander, or political leader to prosecute. Adalah is calling upon the new Attorney General to re-open and re-consider those files."

Background Information

Although there have been three investigations to date into the killings, the families have yet to see those responsible held to account. In November 2000 the government established an official commission of inquiry, headed by former Israeli High Court justice Theodor Or, to investigate the October clashes and the causes leading to their occurrence.

The Or Commission issued its report in September 2003, stating it did not find justification for the gunfire that caused the deaths of the 13 Palestinians demonstrators; that the use of sniper fire and rubber-coated metal bullets was in contravention with police regulations; and that none of the cases constituted a threat which justified the gunfire. The commission further called the Police Investigation Unit in the Ministry of Justice to investigate the killings in order to determine whether to initiate criminal proceedings.

There have been several investigations since the Or Commission, but none that led to any actions. In 2005 the Police Investigation Unit released its own report, stating that there was no need to issue indictments into any of the cases on the ground of insufficient evidence, and closing its files into the matter. However, the Unit had still not investigated many of the 13 cases, and more problematically, had failed to examine the issue of the use of live and rubber-coated metal bullets in a policing context. In response to public criticism, then Attorney General Menachem Mazuz announced that he would review the Unit's decision. Mazuz issued his findings in January 2008, supporting the Police Investigation Unit's claim and stating that none of those alleged responsible for the killings would be indicted.

The Attorney General's report was greeted with strong criticism, including by the president of the Israeli Bar Association. On January 27, 2008, he said that "it is difficult to escape the negative impact of the Attorney General’s final decision, approximately seven and a half years after the incident, to close all the investigation files against all the law enforcement agents implicated in the deaths. Unfortunately, I believe that in the circumstances, this result has harsh implications for the equitable implementation of the law in the State of Israel for all of its citizens and residents."

About ICTJ

The International Center for Transitional Justice works to redress and prevent the most severe violations of human rights by confronting legacies of mass abuse. ICTJ seeks holistic solutions to promote accountability and create just and peaceful societies. For more information, visit www.ictj.org.

Contacts

Habib Nassar, New York (Arabic/French/English)
Acting Director, MENA Program
Tel: +1 917 637 3839
hnassar@ictj.org