Autopsy Report Findings Mandate Appointment of Investigatory Judge to Examine Unnatural Death of Palestinian Bedouin Citizen of Israel


Based on new evidence obtained from an autopsy report as well as from police sources, on 11 December 2003, Adalah submitted a second motion to the Magistrate Court in Beer Sheva (Beer el-Sebe) seeking the immediate appointment of an investigatory judge to examine the circumstances surrounding the unnatural death of Mr. Meteb Al-Nebari, a Palestinian Bedouin citizen of Israel. Adalah Attorneys Marwan Dalal and Morad El-Sana filed the motion on behalf of Mr. Atwa Mohammed Al-Nebari, the deceased's brother, pursuant to Article 19 of the Investigation into Circumstances of Death Law (1958). Adalah has been representing the Al-Nebari family since October 2003.

According to a police document received by Adalah, Mr. Al-Nebari died in the West Bank during the night of 13-14 October 2003: "An event took place near Negohot [a Jewish settlement] in the West Bank during which the person died." On 14 October 2003, the Israeli police notified the Al-Nebari family of the death, and asked them to travel to the Hebron District Coordination Office (DCO) to identify the deceased's body, which was being held by the Israeli army. Mr. Al-Nebari's family identified the deceased; he was buried that evening in his hometown of Tel Sheva (Tel el-Sebe).

Two days later, on 16 October 2003, Adalah filed a motion to the Magistrate Court seeking the appointment of an investigatory judge, the exhumation of Mr. Al-Nebari's body, and the performance of a reliable autopsy to determine the true cause of death. In the motion, Adalah argued that the severe injuries to Mr. Al-Nebari's body constituted probable cause to believe that his death was unnatural and/or caused by an offense committed against him. According to an individual who cleaned and prepared Mr. Al-Nebari's body for burial, the deceased had a large number of serious injuries including wounds and burns to his leg and shoulder, which nearly caused the severing of these limbs. He also had head injuries as well as other wounds from bullets. A representative of the Southern District State Attorney's Office objected to the appointment of an investigatory judge on the grounds that a military investigation was underway in the case, however, he could point to no concrete details of an ongoing inquiry.

On 22 October 2003, the Court ordered that the deceased's body be exhumed and that an autopsy be conducted. No investigatory judge was appointed at this time, but the motion is still pending before the Court. Five days later, on 27 October 2003, the autopsy was performed at the Institute for Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir; after being contacted by Adalah, a representative of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, was present as an independent observer.

In parallel to the Court proceedings, Adalah also sought information from the Israeli police and the army concerning the circumstances of Mr. Al-Nebari's death as well as the preservation of any evidence collected from his body. In response to these requests, Adalah received a letter, dated 6 November 2003, from the Investigating Officer of the Hebron Region Police Investigation Unit, which stated that: "Mr. Al-Nebari was killed during an incident with Israeli army forces on 14 October 2003 near Negohot. All of the handling after the incident was done by the military, which dealt with returning the body to the family and informing the Military Police to check the incident. Since it is a matter that is related to a military force, the Hebron police did not deal with it, except for identifying the deceased by examining his fingerprints and transferring a report to the Military Police of Beer Sheva to Investigating Officer Yoav and the Commander of the Military Police (in Beer Sheva) DeVeer."

As to some of the deceased's personal affects, including his ID card, mobile telephone, and car documents, Adalah received a letter dated 16 December 2003, which stated that the Hebron police sent these items to the Military Police, but that the latter refused to accept them. Adalah was also informed that no other body checked these items.

Adalah also sent two letters, on 21 October 2003 and 14 December 2003, to the Chief Military Prosecutor (CMP) Anat Ron, inquiring as to whether any investigation had been opened by the military, the nature of the investigation, and if completed, requesting a copy of the findings and conclusions. The only response received from the CMP, dated 6 November 2003, was that she would check on the matter, and then reply.

On 11 November 2003, the completed autopsy report was sent to the police, however, despite numerous telephone calls and letters seeking a copy of the report, it was only forwarded to Adalah one month later, on 8 December 2003. The autopsy report states that:

Based on the autopsy results of Mr. Meteb Al-Nebari, aged 31, ... it is my opinion that his death was caused by serious damage to the spinal cord, the liver, and the right lung as a result of a bullet traveling through the back (the entry wound is located in the left side of the back). Shooting range - unable to determine since the clothing was not brought forth for inspection. Direction of wound - back to front, left to right and bottom to top. In addition, an entry wound was found in the right leg. In addition, five superficial passage wounds were located in the right arm, buttocks and the left [side of the] back. In addition, a compressed fracture was located in the right side of the skull bone, caused by a blunt injury, probably a direct (hit) close to the time of death or soon thereafter...

Adalah's second motion for the appointment of an investigatory judge in this case, submitted to the Court on 11 December 2003, details the results of these initial inquiries as well as the autopsy report findings. In the motion, Adalah argued that: "the circumstances surrounding the death of the deceased, as indicated in the autopsy report, raise a clear and present suspicion that the deceased died unnaturally... He was hit by more than one bullet from behind. His death was caused by at least one bullet entering through his back and smashing his spine. Further, the autopsy report indicates that a blunt injury to the head of the deceased was probably caused by a direct hit, which occurred close to the time of death or soon thereafter." Adalah further argued that: "According to police sources, the deceased was killed by an IDF force. Both the police station in Hebron and the military handled the body immediately after his killing. Therefore, before the Court today, there are the names of the specific people who handled the body of the deceased immediately after his death and their institutional affiliations." Thus, for all of these reasons, Adalah stated that an immediate investigation must be opened.

Following up on the autopsy report, Adalah sent a letter to the Institute for Forensic Medicine at Abu-Kabir on 16 December 2003, requesting that the Medical Examiner identify the type of bullets and/or bullet shrapnel found within the deceased's body. While the autopsy report states that, "grey-yellow colored bullet shrapnel were found (placed in a special container)," it fails to provide this information. Adalah also requested that this evidence be safeguarded and well preserved, as it can be used to clearly determine the cause and circumstances of Mr. Al-Nebari's death, as well as the specific individuals involved in his killing. In a response received today, the Medical Examiner directed Adalah to refer all inquiries to the Hebron police.

See also, Adalah News Update: "Adalah to Court: Immediately Appoint Investigatory Judge to Examine the Unnatural Death of Palestinian Bedouin Citizen of Israel," 16 October 2003.