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Israel must hold 'independent' probe into West Bank killings

May 23, 2014 6:30 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 25, 2015 5:33 P.M.)
By: Charlie Hoyle

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel's military must open an independent, transparent investigation into the "unlawful" killing of two unarmed teenagers in the occupied West Bank last week, Amnesty International said Friday.

On May 15, unarmed teenagers Nadeem Nawara, 17, and Mohammad Abu Daher, 16, were shot dead by Israeli soldiers outside Ofer military base.

Video footage of the incident collected by Defense of Children International shows that the killings were "deliberate" and "unlawful," and the teenagers "were not posing any threat to the life of members of the Israeli forces or anyone else," Amnesty said this week.

Saleh Hijazi, a campaigner at Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa program, told Ma'an Friday that the killings were part of a pattern in which Israeli forces resort to "excessive violence" against Palestinians taking part in demonstrations in the West Bank.

"We have found that in the vast majority of cases, Israeli forces, including border police, immediately resort to excessive force when faced with Palestinian protesters."

In February, the group released a report entitled "Trigger-happy," which detailed that the "frequency" and "persistence" of excessive force against Palestinian protesters, and the impunity enjoyed by Israeli forces, suggested that arbitrary force was used as a "matter of policy."

Since April 2011, Israel has adopted a policy that requires the Military Advocate General Corps to instruct military police to investigate every case where a Palestinian not taking part in hostilities is killed by Israeli forces.

Israeli military police have since opened investigations into 24 Palestinians killed in 20 different incidents. Only one case has led to a conviction of wrongfully causing death.

In Dec. 2013, Israel's MAG Corps closed an investigation into the death of Mustafa Tamimi, who was killed in 2011 after an Israeli soldier fired a tear-gas canister at him from point-blank range, claiming the soldier did not see him.

Months earlier, Israel's army closed an investigation into the killing of Bassem Abu Rahmeh, 30, who died after being shot in the chest with a tear gas canister at close range, due to lack of evidence. Video footage captured the incident from three different angles.

Army investigations require civilian oversight

"Unless you have an independent and transparent investigation into these violations, you won't reach even a small level of accountability for the perpetrators," Hijazi told Ma'an.

"An independent investigation means civilian oversight, not an army investigating itself."

In response to last week's killings, Israel's army said that the video footage was "edited" and said an initial check revealed no live fire was used.

"What they need to do instead of coming out with these statements is say: 'We have opened an investigation,'" Hijazi said.

"What we would expect is for Israeli investigators to say that they welcome all available material and will open an independent and transparent investigation, keeping the families informed as to when it will be concluded, instead of these excuses."

DCI-Palestine has said that it is happy to provide Israeli investigators with all the material they have collected, and there is likely more evidence the Israeli army could collect seeing as the incident took place near Ofer military jail, a highly secured area, Hijazi said.

Israel's army has also not refuted the authenticity of the video footage, even if they disputed the way it was edited, he added.

"Until now there has been a lack of independence and transparency (in investigations). Israel has a responsibility to make sure investigations are independent, they don't need to wait for someone to tell them or an international presence," Hijazi said.

"As a state, they have the responsibility and capability to do it themselves."

In 2013, 22 Palestinian civilians were killed in the occupied West Bank, at least 14 of them at protests.

Most were young adults under the age of 25 and at least four were children.
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