HCJ 5817/08 Bassam Aramin v the Attorney General

Petition Submission Date: 29.6.2008

Petition Description: On January 16 2006, seconds after she exited a candy store during a school recess, 10-year old Abir Aramin from the Palestinian village of Anata collapsed after a blunt object hit her head forcefully. Abir Aramin was taken to Mukassad Hospital in Jerusalem, where she died two days later.

That morning, a force comprised of four Border Policeman was stationed in Anata to guard construction of the separation barrier. They were met with riots and stone throwing, and responded by shooting tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets.

The police opened an investigation into the incident only 48 hours after the incident, and only after Yesh Din filed a complaint. An autopsy conducted by a state-appointed pathologist as part of the investigation found that her death was caused as a result of a hit to the head by “a hard, blunt object; it is impossible to rule out the possibility of mechanism of injury by a rubber bullet shot from close range.” Later he added that the injury may have been caused by a stone. Dr. Chen Kugel, who was present at the autopsy on behalf of the Aramin family wrote that while the possibility of a stone injury should not be ruled out, it is much more likely that Abir’s fatal injury was caused by a rubber bullet.

The police decided to close the case due to lack of evidence. Among other things, it claimed the girl might have been injured by a stone thrown by one of the Palestinian protestors. The family appealed the decision, which was also rejected. Abir’s father, Bassem Aramin then petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) with the assistance of Yesh Din. The petition asked the Court to instruct the attorney general to indict the two police officers who were confirmed to have fired rubber bullets during the incident for counts of manslaughter or negligent manslaughter or at least for endangering lives while violating the rules of engagement.

The State response included the claim once again that the decision to close the investigation file was based primarily on the police claim that the police officers did not shoot rubber bullets in the direction of Abir Aramin and that the police could not have hit her from the place they were standing. Furthermore, the State Attorney once again relied on the claim that the possibility that Aramin’s death was caused by a stone could not be ruled out.

In February 2010, the HCJ issued an order nisi instructing the attorney general to explain why he did not call for a reopening of the investigation file. The State Attorney responded that it had decided to take further steps to complete the investigation, however a year later the investigation was closed.

In the interim, the Jerusalem District Court accepted the damages claim the Aramin family filed against the police, while rejecting the claims raised by the State in the High Court and found that Aramin’s death was caused by police negligence.

In July 2011, the High Court rejected the petition due to insufficient evidence to criminally prosecute. However, the justices levied sharp criticism against the police and state attorney’s conduct. “In light of the failure to address the incident from the start, insufficient evidence and conduct that from the start did not meet the need to relate to the investigation appropriately, there is reason to believe the girl’s death was caused by live fire on the street where she walked, but the handling of the affair and the investigation included so many failures from the beginning and now the requested redress of prosecuting the respondents is now impossible,” they wrote in the ruling.

Petition Status: The petition was rejected. However, in an unusual step, the justices ruled that the expenses should benefit the petitioners and Yesh Din for a sum of NIS 10,000.