Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The murder of Odai Qadous two years on: Absent justice


By Jessica Purkiss - February 01, 2013
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Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
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Two years ago on January 27th, 15 year old Odai Qadous was murdered by a Jewish settler as he worked on the land his family owned in the Nablus village of Iraq Burin.  

Odai and his cousin Omar Qadous were approached by the settler as they farmed their family’s land. According to his cousin the settler swore and screamed at them to get off the land. The land is owned by the Qadous family, and all settlements in the West Bank, including the nearby settlement of Bracha, are deemed illegal under international law. The settler was supposedly visiting Bracha and was not a resident of the illegal settlement.

Iraq Burin is a small village just outside the West Bank city of Nablus. It sits on a hill opposite the illegal settlement of Bracha. Built in 1982, the settlement has expanded to house 90 families. Due to the proximity of the Palestinian village to the settlement, the villagers of Iraq Burin face almost daily attacks. Odai was the third Palestinian victim to fall in Iraq Burin due to settler violence in the past three years. On March 20, 2010, subsequent to an Israeli settler attack , that was repelled by the villagers, Israeli soldiers stormed the village and shot and killed two teenagers, Mohammad Qadous, 16, and Usaid Qadous, 19, with live ammunition.

From the video footage of the shooting, and the testimony of Odai’s cousin Omar Qadous, it appears that the settler approached the boys and stopped to verbally abuse them. Odai then picked up a stone and attempted to chase away the settler just before the settler shot him at point blank range. 

“He had a gun and Odai just wanted to scare him away; he picked up a stone to push him back, but then the settler shot him,” said Omar Qadous who witnessed his cousin’s shooting. 

On the second year anniversary of her son’s death, Odai’s mother Amneh Qadous explained to the Palestine Monitor through sobs the moment she discovered Odai had been shot:

 

Odai then picked up a stone and attempted to chase away the settler just before the settler shot him at point blank range. 

“I saw the settler approach my son and his cousin, and I could see from my house the settler was harassing them. I was scared and screaming at Odai to keep away, but that day the wind was blowing hard and he couldn’t hear me. Then they went out of my sight and I heard a shot. I saw from a distance that Odai’s cousin was carrying something over his shoulder. I was worried but my daughter was trying to calm me down telling me he was just carrying a sack. But then as he got closer I saw it was my son. I didn’t expect it to happen.”

“My son was a very kind boy, very pious. His father was sick so he used to work to help him. He was arrested twice before, one time whilst working on the land and put in prison for one month; the other time when he crossed into 1948 areas without a permit to work in order to help the family. But that was all he ever did, and it was always to help his father,” she said.

The case: absent justice

Since their son’s killing, the Qadous family have faced harassment and attempts of criminalization. Shortly after the murder Israeli intelligence services took DNA samples from Odai’s mother and brother. This occurred after Odai had been buried so it could not have been related to determining his identity. Six months later their house was ransacked and raided by Israeli soldiers.

“They [Israeli authorities] asked us to come to give details three times. On the third time, I told them I wanted a legal case brought against the settler, but after I said that they never called us again,” said Omar Qadous.

At the time, the Israeli authorities claimed that the settler responsible for the incident had not been arrested but told the family they will call them when he had been. Approximately four months later the family read in an Israeli newspaper that the man who shot their son had been found. The Israeli authorities had failed to inform them.

 “You have a camera pointed at the settler, you have a witness. The settler ran in the direction of the Israeli soldiers, yet why could they not capture him for four months?” said Odai’s sister Suzie Qadous. 

The family have received little or no information on their son’s case and to this day appear to be unsure as to the outcome. Apparently they have heard the settler responsible was put under house arrest for one month and then cleared under the claim he was acting in 'self-defence’.

Self-defence is a common justification for settler attacks on Palestinians. Out of 64 cases monitored by Israeli human rights organizaiton B’Tselem over a seven year period, only four could be defined as clearly 'self-defence’.

“Every time they do something they say self-defence. What is a stone to a settler gun? What is this 'self-defence’?” asked Odai’s sister.  

Palestine Monitor spoke to Yesh Din, the Israeli human rights NGO keeping track of the developments pertaining to the case of Odai Qadous’s murder. They said that the state attorney had yet to make a decision. According to Yesh Din’s spokesperson it took a whole year for an investigation to begin and after another year no decision had been reached. Yesh Din has sent a third letter to the authorities pressing for progress.

“To tell a family that their case, a clear cut case, is still pending two years on is terrible,” said the spokesperson for Yesh Din.

According to a UN report in 2011, 90% of complaints made by Palestinians to Israeli police regarding incidents of settler-perpetrated violence on civilians and/or their property have been closed without any indictment. 

The Israeli authorities make it difficult for Palestinians to raise cases against settlers and settler violence. For a case to be investigated a complaint must be filed, and this is often difficult due to access to Israeli police stations which are mostly located within settlements. When a complaint is filed a case rarely leads to indictment. Statistics by B’Tselem showed that of the 352 incidents of settler-perpetrated violence against Palestinians, 23% had no investigation opened, whilst 6% of complaints received no reply or the complaint could not be located. Palestinian citizens are often completely unaware of their rights with regards to raising a case, which the Israeli authorities make no effort to correct. 




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