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From the field

Death in Custody: The Killing of Murad 'Awaisa, 17, in Ramallah, 31 March 2002

Summary, May 2002

B'Tselem Publishes Case Study: "Death in Custody - Death of the Detainee Murad 'Awaisa"

On Sunday, March 31 2002, at the beginning of "Operation Defensive Shield", IDF soldiers detained 17-year old Murad 'Awaisa. He and some neighbors were detained in an apartment in 'Awaisa's building, and were supervised by soldiers. The next morning, his body was taken from the building with two bullets in it; one near his heart and one in the knee.

B'Tselem today publishes the results of its investigation into the circumstances of 'Awaisa's death. This investigation indicates that on 31 March at around 8:00 P.M., soldiers forcefully removed 'Awaisa from the room where he had been imprisoned with the other men. Some twenty minutes later, the other detainees heard intense gunfire emanating from outside and inside the building. The gunfire lasted for about ten minutes. The soldiers later informed them that 'Awaisa had died.

Testimonies gathered by B'Tselem also indicate that throughout the time the men were detained, the soldiers beat them severely, including with their gun butts and with clubs, swore at them and threatened them. For the 12 hours until they were released, they received no water or food.

The detainees did not see the shooting of 'Awaisa. Therefore, it is impossible to assert with certainty who shot him and what were the exact circumstances of his death. However, the fact that he was killed while in IDF custody and under IDF supervision is sufficient grounds to place the responsibility for his death squarely on Israel. The violence inflicted by IDF soldiers against 'Awaisa and other detainees during their detention, forcibly removing him from the room prior to his death and his hands being tied - strengthen the IDF's obligation to conduct an investigation into the circumstances of his death.

In response to B'Tselem's report, the IDF spokesperson indicated that the matter will be investigated.