15 October 2006
Adalah Submits “The Accused” Report and Demands Investigation into “Mahash” for Breach of Trust and Damaging Public Confidence
On 15 October 2006, Adalah submitted a comprehensive report entitled “The Accused” to the Attorney General of Israel, Menachem Mazuz. The report addresses the shortcomings and failures of the law enforcement authorities – first and foremost the Ministry of Justice's Police Investigation Unit (“Mahash”) – in investigating the killings of 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel and the injury to of hundreds of others during the October 2000 protest demonstrations. The 133-page report primarily exposes Mahash's negligent work and its failure to fulfill its duty to investigate the criminal offenses committed by police officers and commanders in October 2000. In addition, the report discloses, for the first time, how Mahash concealed significant facts from the public and issued a falsified report in September 2005 regarding the events of October 2000, in which it claimed that "it investigated the fatal events in an intensive investigation."
"The Accused" report was compiled after Adalah studied thousands of pages of documents and other evidentiary material presented to the Official Commission of Inquiry (Or Commission) into the October 2000 events and collected by Mahash. This included listening to and viewing various tape recordings relevant to the killing of 13 unarmed Arab citizens of Israel and the wounding of hundreds of others during October 2000. The material that Adalah examined should have served to guide Mahash during its investigation; however, the reality was very different. The key points presented by Adalah's report include:
• Mahash did not conduct any investigation into five of the killings, contrary to the Or Commission's recommendation that it do so. Mahash presented a falsified report to the public, suggesting that it had conducted an intensive investigation, while in fact it did not gather any evidence itself.
• Even where Mahash investigated some of the killings, it did so in a completely negligent, incompetent and superficial manner. For example, Mahash investigators failed to question numerous policemen over contradictions that arose during its investigation compared to the testimonies they gave before the Or Commission. Mahash merely stated that the policemen had contradicted themselves, without confronting them with these contradictions, and then closed the file. • Although Mahash did not present one shred of new evidence beyond that brought before the Or Commission, it nonetheless reached opposite conclusions. For example, the Or Commission clearly determined, based on considerable evidence, that police officers Guy Raif and Rashed Murshid were responsible for the killing of three civilians. Mahash, conversely, cast doubt on this conclusion, without presenting any new supporting evidence.
• Mahash concealed the fact that police officers refused to cooperate with it, including a refusal to undergo a polygraph test. On the contrary, Mahash claimed that the bereaved families had refused to assist in the investigation. Police officers who refused to cooperate with Mahash continued to serve in their positions and no measures were taken against them.
• Mahash's investigation of Alik Ron, who was found by the Or Commission to be responsible for illegally deploying snipers, covers only a single page, while the Or Commission's investigation of Ron spans 801 pages.
• Mahash justified the use of sniper fire on the basis of the testimony of a police officer who was summoned as a defense witness by Alik Ron. The Or Commission reproached Ron for bringing an affidavit of support from the same police officer, and yet Mahash did not hesitate to base its findings on the same man.
• Mahash justified the use of snipers without examining tape recordings comprising central evidence for the illegality of the sniper fire; these tape recording were, however, viewed by the Or Commission.
• Mahash did not verify or review a police report which justified the use of snipers even in the absence of an immediate danger to police officers' lives.
• Moshe Waldman, who was responsible for snipers in Nazareth, was not questioned over an incident that occurred on 8 October 2000 in Nazareth, in which two Arab citizens were killed. In contrast, the Or Commission determined that Waldman gave the illegal order to fire at demonstrators.
• Mahash concealed the fact that in one of the fatal cases, a bullet extracted from the body of the deceased was lost after previously being in its possession.
• Mahash rejected without any sufficient foundation the credibility of witnesses who had been considered very credible by the Or Commission. Mahash also did not hesitate to reject the credibility of neutral witnesses without summoning them for questioning.
• The report demonstrates that Mahash's first failure began at the very outset of the October 2000 events. Thus, in Adalah's view, the law enforcement authorities violated the principle of the rule of law by failing to perform their legal duty to immediately open criminal investigations against the police officers and commanders.
• In light of the above, Adalah concludes that Mahash damaged the public's confidence and breached its trust.
• Adalah, on behalf of the families of the deceased, demands that an investigation be opened immediately into Mahash's grave failings, and the immediate suspension of all those responsible for Mahash's failures, led by Eran Shendar, the Director of Mahash in 2000, and currently the State Attorney of Israel.