Border Police in Hebron abused a schoolboy, ‘Abd a-Rahman Burqan, twice in one month
Update: The Department for the Investigation of Police (DIP) opened two separate cases to investigate the circumstances of the two incidents. On 1 August 2012 the DIP notified B’Tselem that the investigation of the incident of 3 June 2012 had not yet been completed. On 13 August 2012 the DIP notified B’Tselem that, upon concluding its investigation of ‘Abd a-Rahman Burqan’s complaint of an attack by a policeman of the Border Police on 29 June 2012, it was decided to transfer the handling of the complaint to the disciplinary section of the Israel Police and to try the Border Police suspect in Police Disciplinary Court for illegal use of force. Regarding the incident of 3 June 2012, on 6 December 2012, the DIP informed B'Tselem that upon conclusion of the investigation, a decision was made to close the case for lack of evidence.
On 29 June 2012, a B’Tselem video volunteer documented an Israeli Border Police officer kicking a Palestinian schoolboy while another police officer restrained the boy, outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The video clip was released by B’Tselem on 2 July 2012 and widely distributed by Israeli, Palestinian, and international media. Broadcasts of the clip brought about a wave of responses and put the issue on the public agenda. The day the video aired, the Department for the Investigation of Police (DIP) notified B’Tselem that it had opened an inquiry to clarify the circumstances of the case.
Testimonies collected by B’Tselem reveal that this was the second time in less than a month that Border Police officers attacked 9-year-old ‘Abd a-Rahman Burqan.
On Sunday, 3 June 2012 , around 8:00 in the morning, third-grader ‘Abd a-Rahman was on his way to school for the last day of year. Near the “Bakery” checkpoint, close to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, ‘Abd a-Rahman encountered a school friend. In his testimony to B’Tselem, ‘Abd a-Rahman said that his friend cursed at a Border Police officer who was at the checkpoint and that the police officer responded by chasing after the boys. The boys ran away from the area and reached the school. Later, around 9:30 AM, ‘Abd a-Rahman passed the checkpoint again on his way home from school (the school closed early that day since it was the last day of the year). The police officer, who was still there, recognized ‘Abd a-Rahman and ordered him to come over to him. In his testimony, ‘Abd a-Rahman said:
"I was afraid of the police officer and tried to run away, but he chased after me and was faster than I am. He caught me within a few meters and grabbed my shirt collar. He threw me to the ground and stepped on my left hand. A few pebbles got stuck in my hand and it hurt. I started to scream. I saw that my hand was bleeding. I think the police officer also noticed I was bleeding. He kicked me on my left hip and told me to go away."
‘Abd a-Rahman’s neighbor, Yazan Gheith, age 10, saw what happened and went to help his friend. In his testimony, he said: “I ran to Abd a-Rahman’s house to tell his mom what had happened. I told her that the Border Police officer broke ‘Abd a-Rahman’s fingers and he was bleeding. ‘Abd a-Rahman’s mom got angry and came running out of the house.”
"I ran to Abd a-Rahman’s house to tell his mom what had happened. I told her that the Border Police officer broke ‘Abd a-Rahman’s fingers and he was bleeding. ‘Abd a-Rahman’s mom got angry and came running out of the house."
‘Abd a-Rahman’s mother, Rania Burqan, described in her testimony what happened next:
“After what Yazan told me, I was very worried about my son. I went outside and ran to the checkpoint, which is about 150 meters from my house. Near the checkpoint I saw ‘Abd a-Rahman. He was crying and screaming. I saw that his left hand was bleeding. I asked him, “Who did this to you?” and he pointed at two Border Police officers at the checkpoint. I was very angry, seeing ‘Abd a-Rahman that way, and I went over to the police officers. I asked one of them angrily: “Why did you do this to my son?” He was very contemptuous and told me to go away.”
“At that point, a police Jeep arrived at the scene. The police officer who got out of the Jeep asked me what happened, and I told him that the Border Police officer had attacked my son. He told me to go to the Kiryat Arba police station to submit a complaint. I told him that there was no point in doing so, and that I wanted to hit the police officer the way he had hit my son. The police officer laughed and made fun of me, and said: “Hit him if you can.” I told him that I could hit him and that I’m afraid only of God.”
“At this point, my neighbor arrived. He calmed me down and told me that it wasn’t worth causing trouble, and that it would be better to take my son to a doctor instead. I took ‘Abd a-Rahman home, washed his hand, and put an antiseptic on it. I can’t afford to take him to a doctor. Our financial situation is terrible and I can’t even afford to go to the Kiryat Arba police station to submit a complaint.”
On 1 July 2012, B’Tselem contacted the Department for the Investigation of Police (DIP) on behalf of the boy’s family, demanding that they open an investigation into the incident.
On Friday, 29 June 2012, a little before 8:00 in the morning, ‘Abd a-Rahman Burqan left his house to get some food for his family from a soup kitchen operated by the Muslim Waqf in the Tomb of the Patriarchs. In his testimony to B’Tselem, ‘Abd a-Rahman said:
"When I left the yard that leads to the street, a Border Police officer surprised me and ran after me. I was scared and tried to get away, but he jumped on me quickly and caught me by the hand. I got hit in the mouth and it hurt. I was very frightened. The border police officer spoke to me in Hebrew and I didn’t understand what he wanted from me. I started to yell and to cry, and I begged him to let go of me. The police officer kept holding me until another police officer came. The second police officer kicked me hard in the right knee. It hurt a lot and I cried. Then both police officers let go of me and walked away. I got up and ran home because I was afraid that the police officers would chase me again. I discovered that while the police officers were hitting me, I had wet my pants out of fear. I stayed at home for a while until I calmed down and then I went out again to bring the family some food. When I got to the street I saw our neighbor, Raed, with a camera. He told me that he filmed me while the police officers were hitting me.
After talking to Raed, I continued to the soup kitchen. I kept looking around as I walked because I had to pass by a few Border Police checkpoints and I was afraid they would beat me again.”
The videographer, Raed Abu a-Ramileh , a volunteer in B’Tselem’s camera distribution project, said in his testimony to B’Tselem that around 8:00 in the morning, he heard children from the neighborhood and Border Police officers cursing each other. Raed began filming what was going on through the window of his house. He said:
"Suddenly I saw a Border Police officer jump away from the street and hide behind a wall of one of the houses. A short time afterward, a boy appeared, coming out of the alley where the police officer was hiding. The police officer saw him, jumped on him, dragged him by the arm, and threw him on the ground. Apparently his weapon or something smacked the child’s mouth. I continued filming. The boy yelled and put his hand on his mouth. He begged the police officer to let him go. Another police officer arrived. He kicked the boy in his knee while he lay on the ground. Then the police officers left the boy and he got up and ran away."
After the video was publicized on 2 July 2012, the Department for the Investigation of Police (DIP) notified B’Tselem that a criminal investigation had been opened and that the police suspects would be summoned for interrogation immediately. That evening, the media also announced that the Border Police commander had ordered a special team be assembled to investigate the incident.
The day after the video went public, the Department for the Investigation of Police (DIP) summoned ‘Abd a-Rahman Burqan to testify about the two incidents in which Border Police officers had attacked him. Videographer Raed Abu a-Ramila was also summoned to give testimony. The testimonies were taken at the Hebron police station in Kiryat Arba and one of the police officers at the station served as translator.
B’Tselem views the conduct of the investigation with dismay. It is inappropriate to take testimony inside a police station from a complainant who was allegedly attacked by Border Police officers, and to utilize the services of another police officer as translator. This is particularly egregious when a 9-year-old boy is involved, since he cannot be expected to differentiate between the various positions held by those standing in front of him – Border Police officers, regular police officers, and Department for the Investigation of Police (DIP) investigators. Taking testimony in an environment which the boy naturally perceives as threatening makes it harder for him to give his testimony, thus impairing the investigation and reducing the possibility of arriving at justice regarding the perpetrators.