(Haifa, Israel – September 5, 2010)– The civil law suit filed by Rachel Corrie’s family against the State of Israel for her unlawful killing in Rafah, Gaza, resumed Sunday in the Haifa District Court. In March, the Corrie family called their witnesses to the stand. Today marked the beginning of the State’s testimony.
Rachel Corrie, an American human rights defender from Olympia, WA, was crushed to death on March 16, 2003, by a Caterpillar D9R military bulldozer. She had been nonviolently demonstrating against the demolitions of Palestinian homes.
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The first state witness, a Military Police investigator known to the court as Oded, was part of a three-person team that investigated Rachel’s killing. Oded corroborated much of the testimony provided by El’ad, an investigator who testified in March, and added additional details about the inadequacy of the investigation.
- Oded confirmed that a commander of the unit involved in Rachel’s killing interrupted the questioning of the bulldozer operator, telling him that Doron Almog, head of the Israeli military’s Southern Command, had ordered that the questioning cease. He also said that, in his experience, interference of this nature from military commanders was not uncommon.
- When asked why he did not challenge the intervention, Oded said that as a junior investigator, it was not his place to do so. He was 20-years-old at the time, with only a high-school education and three-months of training in investigation.
- Corrie’s case was the first civilian killing that Oded investigated from beginning to end.
- Like El’ad, Oded stated that neither he nor any other investigator visited the site of the killing.
- Oded said that he did not obtain the video-audio recording from the military surveillance camera which filmed 24/7 until March 23, a week after he began the investigation.
- Oded said he did not request the video-audio recording with radio transmissions of the 2 bulldozer drivers and commanders from the hours leading up to the incident, transmissions which might have provided further context to the killing. Oded stated he did not believe they were relevant, even though Rachel and her friends from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) were protesting the bulldozer activity for several hours prior to her death.
- When military police transcribed the radio transmissions, they failed to include an exchange in Arabic in which one soldier said, “Yem mawatu!” which in English means, “What, Did you kill him?!” and another soldier replied, “Allah Yerhamo,” “May God have mercy on him.” When asked about the discrepancy, Oded said that he did not understand Arabic and the investigation team did not think it was important. Oded testified that none of the investigators interviewed any of the Palestinian witnesses – including medical personnel who examined Rachel immediately following the incident. When asked why, he said he did not think they could provide any useful information.
According to a 2005 Human Rights Watch Report, Israel’s military investigative system is not independent, impartial or thorough. The military rarely has brought wrongdoers to justice, and existing practices have exerted little deterrent effect. Furthermore, the report found that the system is opaque, cumbersome, and open to command pressure.
“Our family and the US government’s long standing position has been that there was never a thorough, credible and transparent investigation. Today’s testimony further confirms that stand,” said Sarah Corrie Simpson, Rachel’s sister.
The trial is slated to resume on Monday, September 6 at 9:30 a.m.
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