HCJ 6547/11 Subhiya Musa Abed Abu Rahme V the Military Advocate General

Petition Submission Date: 11.9.2011

Petition Description: On December 31, 2010, Israeli soldiers fired large quantities of tear gas during the weekly protest against the separation barrier in the Palestinian village of Bil’in. Among those hurt from inhaling the gas was Jawaher Abu Rahme, 36, who was standing far away from the protest, by her house. According to protesters’ testimonies, the army initially used tear gas grenade launchers that fired six canisters consecutively, and as the petition stated, “the entire village was filled with gas.” After the protest, Abu Rahme started feeling ill. She was evacuated to hospital in Ramallah, where she died the next day.

In accordance with the policy at the time that a Military Police Criminal Investigations Division (MPCID) investigation is not automatically opened into the death of a Palestinian who not involved in combat in the West Bank, the Chief Military Prosecutor at the time, Major General Avichai Mandelblit, refused to order an MPCID investigation into Abu Rahme’s death. A few weeks after Abu Rahme’s death, following a High Court petition by B’Tselem, Mandelblit changed the policy. From that moment forward, an MPCID investigation was opened in all cases of deaths caused by Israeli army operations, unless it was a an actual combat situation. However, Mandelblit refused to apply this new policy to the case of Abu Rahme.

Yesh Din addressed the Military Advocate General’s Corps (MAGC) in January 2011 at the request of the Abu Rahme family, demanding an MPCID investigation. The MAGC refused, and required Yesh Din to provide evidence that an offense was committed as a precursor to an investigation. Eight months after Abu Rahme’s death, Yesh Din petitioned the High Court to demand it instruct the MAGC to order an investigation into her death.

The petition stated that in any event of a suspicion of a criminal offense, authorities must open an investigation the moment they are made aware of it and “the fact that a civilian died an unnatural death, which happened in connection to a civil protest she participated in, after being hospitalized for inhaling tear gas fired at the protesters, raises the suspicion that a criminal offense was committed and this suspicion can only be clarified by an exhaustive and professional investigation.”

The MAGC objected to the opening of the investigation, claiming that the previous policy that does not require opening an investigation apply to this incident, and that the operational investigation indicated that the army forces observed the rules of engagement, thus there is no suspicion that Abu Rahme’s death was caused by Israeli soldiers’ criminal conduct. It also claimed that it was not clear her death was caused by gas inhalation. A chief medical officer later provided the opinion that “the likelihood that exposure to tear gas is the cause of death is low,” although the army did not have all of Abu Rahme’s medical documents.

In 2014 the High Court rejected the petition, determining that there was no reason to interfere in the MAG’s decision.

Petition Status: Petition rejected