Autopsy doctor admits to violating court order in Rachel Corrie autopsy
(Haifa, Israel – March 14, 2010)– The Haifa District Court heard a second full day of testimony today in the civil lawsuit filed by Rachel Corrie’s family against the State of Israel for her unlawful killing in Rafah, Gaza in 2003. Testimony included that of Israel’s Chief Pathologist, Prof. Yehuda Hiss, and of British eye-witness Tom Dale.
Prof. Hiss, the Chief Pathologist and former head of the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Israel who conducted the autopsy of Rachel Corrie at the request of the Israeli military, admitted that he violated an Israeli court order requiring the presence of a representative from the U.S. State Department during the autopsy.
Prof. Hiss’ testified that:
- His policy was not to allow entrance to the autopsy to anyone who is not a physician or biologist.
- After receiving the court order, he spoke by phone with the US Embassy and was told they would not be sending a representative, and that the Corrie family had agreed to the autopsy. Dr. Hiss admitted there was no documentation of this conversation in his file. The U.S. Embassy has repeatedly told the family that this was not the conversation that occurred.
- He disclosed that he kept samples from Rachel’s body for histological testing without informing her family. Dr. Hiss admitted that he did not inform the family about their right to bury the samples and that the samples were likely to have been buried with other body samples from the Institute, but he was uncertain. This was the first time the family received confirmation that the Israeli Forensic Institute had indeed kept samples from Rachel’s body, despite prior attempts to receive information. Hiss has been subject to lawsuits in Israel brought by families for whom he did not return body parts and samples.
- The judge granted the Corries’ request to hear testimony in relation to their amended legal claim, which included the failure to ensure that a U.S. Embassy official was present during the autopsy. In response to the State’s objections and demands, the judge compelled the Corries to specify the amount of claimed punitive damages. The Corries set the punitive damages at the symbolic amount of $1, stating that the court’s pronouncement of accountability and preventing future harm to others was more important to them than money.
- The judge granted the Corries’ motion to allow into evidence the medical report of Dr. Ahmed Abu Nikera, the Palestinian physician who pronounced Rachel’s death at a hospital in Rafah, Gaza. The State agreed to the admission of this report only after the judge granted the Corries’ earlier motion to allow Abu Nikera to testify from Gaza via video conference. In Professor Hiss’s testimony, he stated that Abu Nikera’s medical report was consistent with his findings, including Dr. Nikera’s statement that Rachel died prior to arrival at the hospital.
Today’s hearing also concluded the second-half of testimony from Tom Dale, a British activist from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and eyewitness to Rachel’s killing.
The hearing was attended by US Consul General Andrew Parker and legal and human rights observers, including Lawyers without Borders and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI),
Rachel Corrie, an American human rights defender from Olympia, Washington, was crushed to death on March 16, 2003 by a Caterpillar D9R bulldozer. She had been nonviolently demonstrating against the demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah, Gaza with fellow members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct action methods and principles.
Testimony continues on March 15 from 9am-1pm, and on March 17 from 9am-4pm.