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From the field

Abuse of Muhammad Maharmeh, 22, Hebron, 11 March 2012

Abuse of Muhammad Maharmeh

The incident

On the morning of 11 March 2012, a group of soldiers from the 13th Battalion of the Golani Brigade went up to the roof of the house of the Maharmeh family in Hebron. They accused Muhammad Maharmeh, who was 22 years old at the time, and his father, Ishaq, then 50 years old, of having thrown stones. B’Tselem’s inquiry found that the soldiers assaulted the two men and then arrested them and took them to a military base nearby. Only at around 7:00 P.M. were the two taken to the police station. While the father and son were being held at the military base, soldiers severely assaulted Muhammad Mahamreh. Among other things, his finger was broken, a soldier urinated on him, dirt was put in his mouth, and another soldier threatened to rape him. In his statement, Mahamreh noted that one of the most active participants in the abuse spoke Arabic.

The investigation

B’Tselem called the MPIU to report the incident several days later. About two weeks later, on 1 April 2012, the MPIU unit in Beersheba received orders from the MAG Corps to investigate the incident. About a year and a half later, the Military Advocacy for Operational Affairs informed B’Tselem that it had decided to close the case.

In the time that elapsed before the MPIU investigation began, the Israel Police gathered statements from Muhammad and Ishaq Maharmeh, who were questioned as suspects in assaulting the soldiers, and from a soldier who had been part of the arresting force. Later on, the police took three more statements from Muhammad Maharmeh, in which he complained about the abuse he had undergone. The police also received the medical records of Muhammad and Ishaq Maharmeh and translated them into Hebrew. In addition, police spoke to Lieut. Adi, who commanded the force that carried out the arrest, and took down the details of all the soldiers who were on the mission with him.

On 17 June 2012, B’Tselem provided the investigators with photographs of Muhammad Maharmeh’s bruises, and later also sent them video footage of a part of his arrest. The investigators made no use of the material. The only other investigative action they took was to search several of the soldiers’ mobile phones. This was apparently motivated by Muhammad Mahamreh’s statement to the police, in which he stated that while he was being beaten on the military base, he heard one soldier tell another to film what was happening and that at the same time he heard the sound of a picture being taken on a soldier’s mobile phone. A police memo that was passed on to the MPIU documented a conversation between a police investigator and Lieut. Adi, in which the commander said that “there may have been images of the incident captured on one of the soldiers’ mobile phones, but it’s not documentation of the offense”. The MPIU investigators did not question Lieut. Adi about the images.

The investigators went to considerable lengths to schedule lie-detector tests for the suspected soldiers and for Muhammad Maharmeh and his parents, but then an investigator spoke with Lieut. Col. Elyashiv, the commander of the 13th Battalion. According to the conversation notes, the battalion commander stated that none of the soldiers questioned spoke Arabic. Further to this conversation, and as Muhammad Maharmeh had said that one of the major assailants spoke Arabic, the investigators consulted with the commander of the Beersheba MPIU and consequently decided not to go through with the lie-detector tests.

The vicious violence employed against Muhammad Maharmeh did not occur during the arrest, but while he and his father were held on the military base. Nonetheless, the only soldiers questioned were those who took part in the arrest. Even then, they were questioned almost only about the actual arrest. When the investigators told the soldiers of the Muhammad Maharmeh’s statement to the police, which related primarily to the abuse he underwent at the military base, they all denied any involvement or even knowledge of what was described in the statement. The investigators made no attempt to find out in what part of the base Muhammad and Ishaq Maharmeh were held, who had access to them, or why they were kept there for eight hours.

Although the investigation focused only on the arrest itself and the abuse itself was not actually investigated at all, the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem on 14 November 2013 that it had decided to close the case. No explanation for the decision was given.