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High Court demands decision on murder of Palestinian minor

12:00 Mar 31 2015 Supreme Court of Israel

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BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel's High Court of Justice (HCJ) rejected earlier this week the state's request for an extension to announce the decision of an investigation into the murder of 16-year-old Samir Awad by Israeli forces.

Awad was shot three times in the back of the head, leg and shoulder as he fled Israeli forces Jan. 15, 2013 during a rally commemorating Nakba Day near the occupied West Bank village of Budrus. Footage of the incident brought widespread international criticism.

The HCJ's announcement came last week after continued attempts by the Military Advocate General and the State Attorney's office to postpone reaching a joint decision. Such requests have continued for two years now.

Ahmad Awad, Samir's father, petitioned the HCJ with the assistance of Israeli human rights organization B'tselem in March 2014, demanding that the Military Advocate General decide whether to indict the soldiers who killed his son, or close the case file.

In a court hearing on the petition Dec. 1, 2014, B'tselem reported that the judges criticized the "foot-dragging in the investigation of the case, which was so protracted that it lasted long after the soldiers involved in the incident have completed their military service."

The State Attorney's office is obligated by the HCJ to make a decision regarding Awad's case by mid-April.

Awad's death and sequential verdict postponements mark a trend of what critics argue to be ongoing impunity surrounding disproportionate use of force against Palestinians, especially minors, participating in demonstrations, or responding to raids by Israeli forces throughout the West Bank.

Israeli forces shot and injured at least 30 children across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since the beginning of 2015, according to Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP).

While Israeli military regulation permits the use of live ammunition when a direct mortal threat exists, DCIP found no evidence that any children injured in 2015 posed a direct mortal threat to Israeli military forces or settlers.

The organization criticized the continuing system of impunity, as Israeli military courts rarely prosecute members of Israeli forces in such cases. From 2000-2012, only 117 of 2,207 investigations opened by the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division were indicted, about 5% of the total files opened, according to Israeli human rights group Yesh-Din.

Palestinian leadership is expected to bring Israeli figures to the International Criminal Court in April, partially in response to what they see to be a military court system that promotes impunity rather than effectively enforcing the law.

Since 2000, Israeli security forces have killed over 8,896 Palestinians. At least 1,900 of those have been children, according to DCIP documentation.
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