The Supreme Court on Sunday doubled the nine-month sentence of a border policeman convicted of causing the death of a Palestinian teenager in 2014, saying that the initial punishment did not properly reflect the severity of his actions.
Ben Deri was found guilty in April of causing death by negligence for using live ammunition instead of rubber bullets when he was ordered to disperse a crowd of protesters during Nakba Day demonstrations in the West Bank village of Beitunia, near Ramallah, on May 15, 2014. He was convicted in a plea bargain over the death of 17-year-old Nadeem Siam Nawara, who was shot in the chest.
“The sentence does not give sufficient expression to the value of the person’s life cut short by Deri, nor to the considerations underlying the obligation to respect the principle of purity of arms,” the judges summarized as they increased his sentence to 18 months. Two judges were in favor of the move, with one against.
In their summing up the judges wrote that Deri was to blame for “double negligence” in that he did not make sure his gun magazine was loaded with blanks and that he had not loaded the weapon with a rubber bullet.
“But more serious than that, was Deri’s intention to injure the deceased when he presented no threat to the force [at the scene]. And the result — death.”
The method used by Border Police to fire large rubber bullets from an M-16 rifle requires the use of an adapter, known as a Roma, which is affixed to the gun’s muzzle. The rubber bullets are placed in the Roma and blank cartridges are loaded into the gun itself. The force of the explosion from the blanks is what propels the rubber bullets.
“The sentence imposed by the District Court does not come close to to expressing the gravity of an intentional act like this, when you join to it the serious negligence that caused the death of the deceased,” the Supreme Court judges said.
At the April sentencing, the court noted that although the victim, Nawara, had previously thrown rocks during a protest, he was a considerable distance from the demonstration and posed no threat to Deri’s Border Police unit at the time of the shooting. In addition to his prison sentence, Deri was ordered to pay NIS 50,000 ($14,000) to Nawara’s family in damages.
Deri, who was a commander in the unit, initially claimed that he had fired only rubber bullets. According to his initial version of events, he used rubber bullets in accordance with received orders. However, the indictment claimed police found evidence Deri had allegedly intended to fire live ammunition at the deceased, even though he posed no threat, with the explicit intent to cause serious harm and possibly death. Deri was also accused of covering up his actions at the time.
— adri nieuwhof (@steketeh) May 17, 2014
A police investigation into the shooting found that Deri, 21 at the time of the incident, confirmed that he had used a live round rather than nonlethal munitions.
Nawara’s family had previously vowed to use every means possible to see justice served, including an appeal to the International Criminal Court.
The four-year legal process was marred by numerous hearing delays and cancellations, and the dismissal of the first judge due to a connection to one of the witnesses, followed by a holdup in appointing a second judge. A new judge was finally appointed following a lawyers’ plea to spare the victim’s family from torment.