Jerusalem Court says army responsible for Palestinian girl’s death 16Aug10 August 17, 2010

Palestine Note -  16 August 2010

A Jerusalem court Monday ruled the state responsible by way of “negligence” for the death of 10-year-old Palestinian Abir Aramin in 2007 when she was hit by a rubber bullet fired by an Israeli border policeman.

The Jerusalem Post reported:

The [Jerusalem District Court] determined that the girl was killed by a stray rubber bullet fired by a Border Guard officer. According to the ruling, the shooting was the result of the State’s negligence.

In addition to the civil suit, the girl’s family [along with human rights groups Yesh Din and Bassam Aramin] filed an appeal with the High Court of Justice, demanding that the Israeli fighters be put on trial, this after the State Prosecutor’s Office closed the case against them.

Judge Orit Efal-Gabai said in her ruling that there was no dispute that the shooting, which occurred in the West Bank village of Anata, was conducted in violation of the rules of engagement.

“The shooting did not target rioters or stone-throwers. Abir and her friends were walking down a street from which no stones were thrown at Border Guard forces. There was no apparent reason to fire in that direction,” according to the ruling.

The ruling was based on the testimonies of Abir’s friends. “They went through a very difficult experience and witnessed her [Abir's] injury,” said the judge, adding that the State’s version of the events, according to which Abir was hit by a stone and not a rubber bullet, was “unlikely.”

Following Abir’s death, her family submitted findings that she had, in fact, been killed by a rubber bullet. Israeli police said an autopsy found that to be false. Following Monday’s ruling, however, the State Prosecution said Abir’s death would be investigated further.

The family’s lawsuit also demanded financial compensation. Judge Efal-Gabai said a further hearing in October would determine the amount to be paid.

Ongoing investigations

Though Israel closed the criminal investigations into the soldiers who fired the rubber bullets that killed Abir, it has pursued several investigations into the allegations of crimes committed during the 2008-2009 Gaza War. Though thousands more complaints have not yet been probed, it has indicted one soldier for the killing of two Gaza women during the offensive.

The allegations were first officially compiled by the UN fact-finding that produced the Goldstone Report. A team of UN experts returned to Israel and the Gaza Strip Saturday to investigate how its findings are being followed up, Xinhua reported Monday. The committee plans to spend three days visiting families and rights groups who filed complaints following the war. Both Israel and Hamas have submitted two reports on their ongoing investigations into war crimes allegations. As of yet, no indictments by Hamas have been reported.

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