On Saturday 8 November Kheir Hamdan, a 22 year old Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel was shot dead by Israeli police officers in the village of Kufr Kana. According to police statements issued immediately after the incident, Hamdan was shot as he attempted to stab an arresting officer. However video footage released soon after revealed that Hamdan had been retreating from police officers when shot. Following the shooting, the High Follow Up Committee for Arabs declared a general strike and demonstrations ensued in several Arab towns. These demonstrations were met with teargas, large scale police violence and tens of arrests – the majority of the arrested were minors.
The Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) considers the violent police repression of legitimate protest by the Palestinian Arab communities as continuing evidence of a political attitude which views Arabs within Israel as enemies of the State. This position has been confirmed by the Or Commission which was appointed to investigate events in October 2000 which saw 13 Palestinian civilians killed by police amid demonstrations in Israel. The Commission's report stated that the “Government handling of the Arab sector has been primarily neglectful and discriminatory” and emphasized the urgent need to take immediate and long-term corrective measures. However, the HRA views the continued violent police handling of demonstrations within the Arab communities as evidence that the State has not internalized these recommendations, rather it continues to view its Palestinian Arab citizens as enemies and deny them equal citizen rights such as freedom of expression and security of person.
Moreover, the immediate response of the security forces to Saturday’s fateful incident, illustrates a lack of intent to thoroughly investigate cases of police wrongdoing. Following the fatal shooting of Hamdan, the police instantly released a statement falsely claiming that he had posed an immediate threat. This account was contradicted when video footage emerged of Hamdan retreating from police officers, who after shooting him dragged his body along the road and into a police car, rather than addressing his injuries. The incident clearly constitutes the execution of a man who posed no immediate threat, and the speed in which police forces prepared the ground for legitimizing their actions by issuing falsified statements to the contrary, illustrates a lack of will to conduct an impartial investigation into the incident.
The HRA expresses extreme concern at statements made at the political level by the Prime Minister and police officials, who have voiced support for the police forces rather than expressed condemnation over the killing. The HRA warns that this tacit support acts as a green light for security forces to continue to act with impunity in their violent and racist response to Palestinian Arab citizens. The HRA affirms that the incident which has been captured on video clearly shows an extra judicial killing, for which not only the individual officers, but the police system at large, is responsible for. However since the tragic events of October 2000, the Israeli Police Investigation Unit (Mahash) has continually failed to provide adequate, independent or transparent investigations into the deaths of Palestinian Arabs at the hands of the police, rather they have used these processes to cover the truth and justify the actions of the police.
The HRA demands that the police officers involved in the killing of Kheir Hamdan are immediately suspended from their roles until a thorough and independent investigation has been concluded. We call on the Attorney General to open a criminal investigation into the killing so that those who are responsible are brought to trial. The HRA will work in cooperation with other international human rights organizations on impartially and professionally investigating this incident with a view to preventing the continuation of these racist and discriminatory killings.