28 August 2012
Haifa/Brussels, August 28, 2012 – Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) regrets that the State of Israel’s responsibility has been cleared by the District Court of Haifa in the “Rachel Corrie” case. In his verdict pronounced today on the circumstances surrounding the American activist’s death, the judge deemed that the internal investigation of the responsibility of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had been appropriately carried out. However, for ASF, who has been observing the trial since 2010, the inquiry was not conducted in a complete, credible or transparent manner. The decision raises questions about the State of Israel’s obligation to insure the physical protection of civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
A volunteer with the NGO International Solidarity Movement, Rachel Corrie was killed in the Gaza Strip on March 16, 2003, crushed by an Israeli Army bulldozer. Alongside other volunteers, Corrie protested against the planned demolition of Palestinian houses in the zone of Rafah.
Following the internal investigation led by the Israeli military police, the case had been closed: the driver of the bulldozer had neither seen Rachel nor could have seen her. This formally contradicts Rachel’s colleagues who were at the scene. The Israeli government never released the investigation’s report, despite repeated demands by the victim’s family. Seeking justice and the truth, the family ultimately decided to file a civil liability action against the State of Israel.
“To declare that the internal investigation was conducted properly discredits the court’s decision. It appears from several elements of the file, including the testimony from members of the army at the hearing, that there were serious flaws in the investigation which found no responsibility with the army,” says Lara Deramaix, ASF Coordinator in charge of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
At the request of the Corrie family, ASF has been ensuring a completely independent observation of this trial since 2010. Commissioned by ASF, Israeli lawyer Smadar Ben Natan attended today’s ruling: “The Court has adopted the State arguments one by one. As a result, today’s decision does not answer the acute problem of the action (death due to the bulldozer) and the military, and thus State responsibility for it, nor the problems raised by the incomplete military investigation.”
In his verdict, the judge in Haifa considered the American activist to have put herself in a dangerous situation despite the fact that she was wearing a fluorescent jacket and carrying a megaphone with which she addressed the soldiers for several hours before she was killed.
“To consider that Rachel Corrie acted at her own risk by interfering in an ongoing military operation serves to clear the State of Israel of all liability and to dismiss the question of whether the army took all the necessary precautions to avoid this tragedy,” concludes Deramaix.