An illegal Palestinian, driving a stolen vehicle in June 2008, was injured in a car accident (we will refer to him as “the criminal”). The criminal was immediately taken for treatment at a hospital in Israel (at the expense of the State of Israel).
After two weeks, the hospital informed the police of their intention to release him, and he was taken to the police station in Rehovot. The criminal still had motion limitations, was confused, and a urinary catheter was attached to his body. The release documents indicated that his walking was still erratic. He still needed help with eating and drinking and a medical follow-up and further treatment was required.
After failing to find a suitable detention facility with medical supervision, the station commanders released the criminal. At this point his personal details and his family details were not known to police staff. They ordered the officer in command of the police car on duty to take the criminal to the Maccabim checkpoint and hand him to the Army but the Army refused to accept him in his condition.
As a result, the officer in the police vehicle suggested leaving the criminal on a safe spot on the side of the road, near the village where many Palestinians are constantly passing towards the city of Ramallah. The commander of the station agreed. Consequently, at 3 A.M., the criminal was left behind a roadside safety rail. Two days later, his body was found in the same spot where he died of a septic condition and dehydration.
The District Court (Beit Mishpat Hashalom)
The District Court convicted the officer and his commander of causing the criminal’s death by negligence and sentenced them to 30 months’ imprisonment. It was determined that the deceased was a wreck when he was abandoned by the side of the road, and it doesn’t matter who of the two the cops conceived the idea because both were aware of his condition.
The magistrates sentenced each of the accused to 30 months imprisonment and in addition four months ‘ imprisonment suspended for two years from the date of their release which was on probation providing no similar offence, of causing death by negligence, is committed again.
The Appellate Court (Beit Mishpat HaMechozi)
The appeal filed at the Appellate Court was largely declined, but the punishment was reduced to 21 months’ imprisonment (to be served behind bars), because of the lack of police procedure concerning medical treatment and transfer to other authorities when dealing with illegal Palestinians.
The due process in Israel
Every case can be appealed once. It is possible under special circumstances to appeal a second time. In fact it is always a “request” to have an appeal heard in the court (it is a third round). The court can accept or deny this extra appeal but they are usually denied.
An appeal was filed in the Supreme Court
The police car leader claimed that he was not aware of the criminal’s medical condition and that the medical records revealed to him only elaborated the criminal’s problem with walking.
He added that the conduct of many others in this case was found inappropriate but they were not prosecuted. Therefore he believed that his punishment was “selective” justifying as a result a significant relief from punishment.
Discussion and decision at the Supreme Court
After listening to all sides and arguments in a hearing held before the panel of three Judges, the conclusion was that there was no ground for this special appeal.
The Honorable Judge Mr. Danzinger
“It goes without saying but would like to mention that the punishment is indeed not easy at all, but it reflects in the proper way the severity of the acts committed and is consistent with the policy of punishment for offences that causes a person’s death.
When handing down a decision on the penalty, the District Court took into account the circumstances of the appellants, as did the Appellate Court when ordering the sentence reduction.
The Appellate Court also considered, as part of its judgment, the absence of regulations in the situation confronted. Therefore, I do not accept the appeals on the punishment.
Even a wounded animal is not to be left on the side of the road and in this case, under review, we are not dealing with a wounded animal but a human attached to a catheter (a urine bag) still dressed in hospital pajamas, placing him in the middle of the night on the side of the road is of course unacceptable.
Two days later, the deceased was found in the same place he was left in the dark night, his upper body naked, wearing Sheba’s hospital pants and the urinary catheter, without the bag, still attached to his body.
As judges we are exposed every day to the darker side of society in Israel, but the case is no longer just a criminal case of causing death through negligence.
This situation stabs at our hearts and causes great distress to the reader. What was going through the heads of the appellants when they shipped the diseased beyond a security railing while placing in his hands the envelope with medical documents? What did they talk among themselves on their way to the mission and after it was completed? Have they joked among themselves or did a disturbing silence reign in the police car?
The applicants complained about the absence of procedure, but procedure is not a cure for all ailments. There are situations where a person is required to use an operating system that includes common sense combined with a pinch of humanity and universal morality. The people, who lacked that, failed the system.
As a side note, I wish to remind those responsible for police procedures that I hope they will review or write clearer procedures when a criminal from the Palestinian Authority area is released when he is in poor health.”
The Honorable Judge Mr. Zilbertal
“I agree with the judgment of Honorable Judge Mr. Danziger and the Honorable Mr. Amit.
Regardless of the formal legal framework of criminal norms to be applied in this case, and in these matters, I agree with the honorable Judge Amit. It is impossible not to contemplate how we reached this situation, especially among representatives of law enforcement, who disregarded every basic human attitude towards a human being, who was fuzzy and helpless, to the point that they left him to his fate on the side of the road in the middle of the night, without food or drink still connected to the catheter and half dressed.
It is a moral bankruptcy, there is a stain on the appellants and at some extend a stain on Israeli society as a whole. Convicting and punishing them expresses the legal system’s view, that in spite of its great importance, the legal system is not a substitute for the necessary measures to be taken at other levels for this deep gap in our morality that it revealed. Side by side with the criminal proceedings, hopefully appropriate measures were taken and will be taken further and educational and public leaders will publicly express disapproval and condemn these acts.
A personal touch:
We are strong enough to criticize ourselves and we certainly have high moral levels — let’s keep this way even in a polemic case or even when dealing with a criminal coming from within the enemies’ lines.