On April 23, 2010, a joint demonstration of Palestinians, Israelis and foreigners took place in the village of Bil’in in the West Bank. The demonstration was held to commemorate one year since Bassem Abu Rahma was killed by a tear gas grenade that was directly fired at him. Imad Rizka, an Israeli citizen and resident, 41-year-old at the time of the incident, took part in the demonstration and was also hit by a tear gas canister that a soldier fired at him directly in violation of open-fire regulations. The grenade hit Rizka’s head, causing a skull fracture that required two surgical operations and left him with an irreversible injury from which he still suffers.
HCJ 2458/19, Rizka et al. V. The Attorney General et al.
Date of submission: 4.4.2019
Nine years after his serious injury, Rizka petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ), with the assistance of Yesh Din, demanding that Sgt. Gabriel, the soldier who fired at him, be prosecuted and that disciplinary action be taken against his commanders for their command responsibility for the incident.
The petition was filed after years of foot-dragging on behalf of enforcement authorities. Over five years after the incident, the Military Advocate General’s Office closed the Military Police Criminal Investigation Division’s investigation file on the grounds of insufficient evidence; and after reviewing the investigation material, Yesh Din’s appeal to the Chief Military Prosecutor was rejected one year and a half later; and an objection submitted to the attorney general was rejected following an additional year and a half.
The slow conduct of law enforcement bodies throughout this case is extremely unreasonable, in spite or perhaps because of the fact that the more time that passes, the less likely it is for suspects to be tried and convicted.
The petition alleges that the investigation file contains sufficient evidence to indict the soldier who fired for unlawful shooting that caused genuine harm, as well as for health and life-threatening risks, and negligent use of a firearm. The petition presents extensive testimonies from soldiers and other people present at the demonstration, along with abundant documentation of the incident in real time (stills documenting the shooting and a video documenting the harm), evidence proving that Sgt. Gabriel directly fired a grenade with a grenade launcher at a short range, toward civilians who posed no danger, and hit Imad Rizka’s head.
Closing the case without filing an indictment against the soldier who fired constitutes an unacceptable decision, both because it violates the obligation to prosecute when there is a public interest and sufficient evidence to enable a reasonable chance of conviction, and because it allows a suspect who caused someone genuine harm to flee from the rule of law.
In addition, the petition alleges that there is sufficient evidence among the investigation’s file to determine that the commanders from the incident bear responsibility for the grave consequences with regard to both discipline and command, and that they should be prosecuted for their failure to prevent their subordinates from making illegal use of a weapon.
Failure to file an indictment for such a severe case sends a message to soldiers and members of the security forces, that they in turn have immunity from prosecution even if they use force contrary to the law toward people who do not endanger them. Such conduct conveys disregard for the obligation to protect civilians, the principle of the rule of law, and the importance of law enforcement, while also increasing the risk of harm to innocent people.
Following the High Court hearing, the State Attorney’s Office announced in May 2021 that the Chief Military Prosecutor had decided to reopen the investigation to reexamine the investigation material by an expert. This rare decision was made possible due to Yesh Din’s detailed examination of the photographs and video documenting the shooting of Imad Rizka.
On 29.11.2021 the HCJ issued an order nisi in the petition, allotting the respondents 60 days in which to justify why they chose not to file an indictment against first Sgt. Gabriel.
On January 15th, 2023 the Supreme Court rejected the petition. The judges stated that even the Military Prosecution, the State Attorney, and the Attorney General believed that there was a “non-negligible probability” that the soldier called Gabriel fired the shot that injured Rizka, but determined that the decision not to prosecute the soldier does not exceed the realm of probability and therefore the court will not interfere with it.
Petition status: Rejected