Adalah appeals Israeli Justice Ministry decision to close probe into police killing of Palestinian youth

Officer shot and killed Ahmed Abu Shaaban in Jerusalem on 15 October 2015 after he was lying on the ground, neutralized, and no longer posed threat.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel filed an appeal on 27 July 2016 to the Israeli State Attorney against a decision by the Israeli Justice Ministry's Police Investigations Division (Mahash) to close its investigation into the police killing of the young Palestinian man, Ahmed Abu Shaaban.


Adalah filed the appeal on behalf of the parents of Mr. Abu Shaaban, who was 22 years old at the time of his death.


An Israeli police officer shot and killed Abu Shaaban on 15 October 2015 near the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem. According to the police report of the incident, which was rejected by Abu Shaaban's family, he was shot after he was suspected of stabbing a woman nearby.


A video of the incident revealed that Abu Shaaban was shot by the officer a number of times and killed after he was lying on the ground, neutralized, and no longer posed a threat.


An Israeli police officer opens fire on Ahmed Abu Shaaban (circled) in Jerusalem on 15 October 2015. (Youtube)


Mahash decided to close its investigation due to what it described as an absence of any criminal offense on the part of the officer involved.


In the appeal, Adalah Attorney Aram Mahameed maintained that Mahash's probe of the killing was rife with investigative failures.


Mahash initially stated it closed its investigation because "no factual foundation was established suggesting a criminal offense on the part of any of the officers during the incident."


When Adalah subsequently requested to see the materials from Mahash's investigation in order to consider if an appeal would be justified, it became clear that no investigative action had, in fact, ever been taken.


"There are no materials in our file except for the letter received by our department from your organization," Mahash announced.


In this context, Attorney Mahameed noted that, "despite the clear visual documentation in the case of the deceased and a number of unanswered questions, no investigative action was ever taken by Mahash investigators. Mahash, for example, did not find it suitable to: request an autopsy, conduct an external examination of the body, run a CT scan, question officers involved in the incident, or examine the officers' incident reports. Likewise surprising was the decision not to collect essential eyewitness testimony from bystanders. The officers who were supposed to collect these testimonies apparently never did so and Mahash, in turn, failed to correct this error despite the fact that carrying out these most basic of investigative actions could have contributed greatly to the investigation."


Ahmed Abu Shaaban (Courtesy photo)


Attorney Mahameed further stated there is a significant suspicion – which Mahash also failed to examine – that the shooting in this case was carried out in violation of the police's own open-fire regulations.


"The circumstances of the shooting as described above indicate that, at the moment of the shooting, the deceased did not present a significant danger to the lives of security personnel or others. The fact that the deceased was shot a number of times after he was lying on the ground indicates unjustified gunfire. In this case, the police officers had alternate options that they were obligated by law to implement – which any reasonable officer facing the same circumstances would be obligated to fulfill – that would have prevented the unfortunate results seen here. It must be emphasized once again that there was definitely no reason for the use of lethal force as was the case."


In light of this series of investigative failures, Adalah demands that an investigation be carried out in an objective, independent, prompt, and efficient manner.


This case is similar to the well-known case Israeli solider Sgt. Elor Azaria, who is currently on trial for shooting and killing a wounded and subdued Palestinian assailant in Hebron in March 2016.


READ: Adalah Attorney Aram Mahameed’s appeal to Israel State Attorney (Hebrew)