Terror cases closed without investigation

Damage to the Talman family's car; Photo credit: Courtesy of the family

Damage to the Talman family’s car; Photo credit: Courtesy of the family

Tuesday, January 14, 2020, 7:29 In a recent letter to law enforcement authorities in Yehuda and Shomron, Honenu Attorney Chayim Bleicher revealed deficiencies in handling Molotov cocktail and rock-throwing terror. Bleicher also suggested solutions.
Faulty handling of rock and Molotov cocktail terror in Yehuda and Shomron
Within days, sometimes less than 48 hours, after complaints are filed by injured victims of Molotov cocktail and rock attacks, the Yehuda and Shomron District Police regularly close cases. Data collected by Honenu over the past few years reveals that usually investigations are not opened and neither are investigative actions taken. Honenu Attorneys who convened to deal with the issue were shocked to discover that closing cases is part of a huge deficiency in handling rock and Molotov cocktail terror in Yehuda and Shomron.
The deficiency, explain the Honenu Attorneys, begins with the complaints and testimonies of attack victims not being transferred from the police stations at which they were filed to the police and IDF units which specifically handle terrorism and which have the authority to enforce the law on the matter.
As a result of the disconnect between law enforcement units, military investigation of rock and Molotov cocktail throwing incidents in Yehuda and Shomron is handled separately from complaints by civilians about the same incidents. Due to the lack of coordination many terrorists evade being brought to justice. Others are detained and lenient penalties are imposed on them, because the prosecutors lack evidence. One of the reasons for the situation stems from the fact that when the incidents are examined, the investigatory units do not have all of the information about the incident: the extent of the damage caused, medical reports of injured victims, details about the scene of the attack, and other evidence necessary to fully prosecute the terrorists.
In cases which are brought to the military courts, the Military Advocate General often must prosecute terrorists when they have only a partial description of the incidents and lack evidence. In light of that, the Honenu Attorneys who have been following the cases in court say that the Military Advocate General is forced to close many cases against terrorists with lenient plea bargains. In some cases the lack of evidence creates a situation in which the Military Advocate General is forced to back down from some of the clauses in the initial indictment and file a more lenient indictment. Sometimes from the start the Military Advocate General refrains from filing an indictment against the terrorists.
The extent of the deficiencies are evident in a recent incident in Gush Etzion. A terrorist threw a Molotov cocktail at the Talman family as they drove home to Nokdim. The family car was damaged and the father of the family suffered minor burns on his arm as he tried to extinguish a fire in the flaming motor. The family was surprised to discover that the investigative case had been closed on the grounds of “perpetrator unknown”, several days after they had filed a complaint about the incident with the police.
Honenu Attorney Chayim Bleicher is assisting the family. In a letter he sent to the police he described the attack: “My client was injured by a Molotov cocktail thrown at his car as he drove home with his wife to Nokdim. The Molotov cocktail burst into flames on the front of the car as my client continued to drive a few dozen meters to escape the terrorists’ ambush.” The letter went on to describe extinguishing the flaming car and the rest of the incident.
“To my client’s great astonishment the investigative case was closed within days after the complaint was filed. Furthermore, recently my client was informed that a suspect had been apprehended on suspicion of throwing Molotov cocktails at the same site, two days after the attack on my client,” wrote Bleicher and continued. “I demand the immediate reopening of the investigative case and the examination of the connection between the apprehended suspect and this attack.”
Bleicher added in his letter that the police closure of cases immediately after an attack results in a situation in which the cases of apprehended suspects who connect themselves to the attack and are indicted by a military court, are many times not cross-checked with the case that was closed. Due to this deficiency, the names of the victims are omitted from the bills of indictment, and thus their rights to receive compensation from the terrorists are damaged and the terrorists are sentenced to shorter prison terms.
In this case, Commander Yitzhak Yosefov, Head of the Hevron District Investigations Department, accepted Bleicher’s demand, ordered the “re-opening of the case and carrying out additional investigations,” and stated that “This is a serious incident and the Israeli Police in conjunction with other authorities will make every effort to locate the suspects and bring them to trial. The content of your letter will be taken into account when the suspects are located and the requisite connection to the victim of the attack will be made.”
Following this incident, and due to dozens of additional incidents which Bleicher encountered, he wrote a letter concerning the matter to all of the heads of law enforcement in Yehuda and Shomron: GOC of the Central Command Major-General Nadav Padan, Yehuda and Shomron District Commander Major-General Moshe Bareket, Judge Advocate General of Yehuda and Shomron Colonel Assam Hamed, Legal Advisor to Yehuda and Shomron Colonel Eyal Toledano, and the Head of the Yehuda and Shomron Department of Investigations and Intelligence, Chief Superintendent Yuval Ziz. The letter, which is under the heading, “The critical and urgent need to coordinate the investigative cases of the police, the operational investigations by the army and the security authorities, and the cases of incitement which the Military Advocate General files in terror cases, particularly cases of rock and Molotov cocktail throwing attacks,” describes the extent of the problem and also suggests solutions.
“I would like to point out the phenomenon, which occurs repeatedly, hindering the penalization of terrorists and impeding terror victims realizing their rights. Many times indictments are filed in the military courts for rock and Molotov cocktail throwing which caused property damage and injuries, and the names of the victims do not appear. Simultaneously there is a phenomenon of police investigative cases being closed several days after the complaint about rock or Molotov cocktail throwing is filed. In effect, the police issue the complainant an authorization of damages for the property tax authority [for compensation eligibility] and with that their handling of the case is completed,” wrote Bleicher.
“It seems that there is a close correlation between the two phenomena and the fact that apprehended terrorists are handed down lenient penalties, and also terror victims are prevented from suing the terrorists for compensation.” Bleicher included cases with which he was involved as examples.
In conclusion, Bleicher suggested solutions: “In light of the above, I would like to suggest the following: 1) No case of rock or Molotov cocktail throwing should be closed within three months of filing the complaint. 2) During that time the police unit with which the complaint was filed will conduct cross-checks from time to time, no less than once a week, between suspects investigated for acts of terror and the complaints which match their testimonies, and link the cases when relevant. 3) Simultaneously, the police unit which is investigating the suspects who confessed to crimes of throwing rocks or Molotov cocktails, will not close the investigation without verifying whether or not complaints matching the confessions were filed with the police. 4) In the long range, a computer system will be set up with a database that will coordinate every investigative case, including data from the complainants, dates of the incidents, confessions from the suspects, etc.” As of this posting, none of the authorities have responded to the letter.
Honenu Attorney Chayim Bleicher described the deficiencies in the current handling of rock-throwing terror: “The rock attacks are an evil sickness with which we must not be willing to live and must not ignore. Rock attack cases must not be closed immediately after the complaints are filed, without any attempt being made to find the perpetrators. The same principle holds true with regards to the importance of locating victims when suspects are apprehended. This is a shortcoming which can be corrected without much effort, and thus the victims will be able to appear in court [which helps prevent lenient penalties being handed down to terrorists]. Rectifying the deficiencies will provide tools for imposing significant penalties on terrorists who throw rocks and Molotov cocktails.”

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