Commission of Inquiry to Begin Warnings Hearings


On Monday, 17 June 2002, the official Commission of Inquiry into the October 2000 events will enter the second phase of its proceedings - the holding of "warnings hearings." In February 2002, the Commission announced that "warnings" - notifications that an individual may be found to be responsible by the Commission for the events - had been issued to 14 individuals: Ehud Barak, Shlomo Ben-Ami, Alik Ron, Yehuda Vilk, Moshe Waldman, Shmuel Mermelstein, Benzy Sau, Guy Raif, Yaron Meir, Rashed Murshad, "N.Y.," MK Abdel-Malik Dehamshe, MK Dr. Azmi Bishara, and Sheikh Ra'ed Salah. Those warned have a right to be represented by legal counsel and to call and cross-examine witnesses. Adalah is representing MKs Dehamshe and Bishara and Shiekh Ra'ed Salah, and will be attending all of the warnings hearings. 

Section 15 of the Commissions of Inquiry Law (1968) requires that such commissions inform a person who may be harmed by the inquiry in what respect he may be adversely affected. Accordingly, on 27 February 2002, the Commission issued a decision detailing the reasons whereby each "warnee" may be harmed. 

This week, the Commission will start with the hearing of "N.Y.," a Yamam (Anti-Terrorism Special Unit) officer who took part in the events in Nazareth. In its February decision, the Commission stated that "N.Y." is liable to be harmed should it conclude that:
"[i]n his capacity as a policeman in the anti-terrorist unit, in the evening of October 2, in Nazareth, he was in charge of a team that used live fire without justification and in violation of the relevant directives, as follows: (a) without justification, he personally used live fire at a person who had thrown a petrol bomb that did not endanger him or other police officers who were involved in the action that evening at that location; (b) later that evening, he did not ensure that the forces under his command were clearly identified as police forces, and this created the risk, which was realized, that the police officers would not be identified as such by citizens who were in the area. He was the first to fire, without justification, in the incident in which three members of the anti-terror squad opened live fire at a car that was moving on the street referred to as the Banks Street, in Nazareth. A woman who was in the car was seriously injured as a result."
Fourteen witnesses, including "N.Y.," are scheduled to testify regarding the Yamam officer's liability.

The Commission has also scheduled the hearing of Rashed Murshad, a Border Police officer who participated in the events in Jatt, for this week. The Commission stated that he may be found liable should it conclude that:
"[i]n his capacity as a policeman in the Border Police, while performing his duty in an incident that took place in Jatt on October 1, he aimed and fired rubber bullets from a distance of about fifteen meters at the upper portion of the bodies of residents. The firing was without justification and contrary to the directives regarding the safe range for the firing of rubber-coated bullets and on the obligation to fire only at the legs, and thus created a risk of causing serious, or even lethal, injury. This shooting wounded a citizen in the head, from which he died the following day."
Eighteen witnesses, including Rashed Murshad, are scheduled to testify regarding the Border Policeman's potential liability. 

As the first week of the warnings hearings commences, Adalah reiterates it's concerns, inter alia, that the inclusion of the issue of "incitement" within the mandate of the Commission violates the Commissions of Inquiry Law (1968); that the Commission failed to issue warnings to other police officers who, according to eyewitness testimonies, were directly involved in events in which Arab citizens were killed; and that the Commission exceeded its authority by asked the three Arab public representatives many questions regarding their political positions and agendas.