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Palestinian rape victim seeks fresh trial against Israeli officers

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TEL AVIVI: A Palestinian woman who accused Israeli officers, including a doctor, of rape and sodomy during a frisk and arrest operation in 2015 has filed a suit to challenge the previous court decision to drop the case.

Citing a lack of evidence, the Israeli court previously dropped the case, in which the victim had accused Israeli security forces of “sticking fingers into her private parts.”

In a report published in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the woman filed the appeal with the Israeli State Prosecutors Office on Sunday, seeking to reopen the case. 

The alleged incident took place in 2015, when the Israel Security Agency, Shin Bet, purportedly conducted a night-time raid to arrest the aggrieved Palestinian woman. Suspected of having links to Hamas, the arrest led to one of the most explosive investigations involving two Israel Defence Forces (IDF) officers, an army medic, and a clerk. The woman complained that the female officers forcibly inserted fingers into her private parts, not once but twice.  

Haaretz reported that a female military doctor and a female company clerk were following a Shin Bet agent’s order that her orifices be searched to see if she was hiding a sim card, as the officers wanted to access her phone information.

The highly invasive search was conducted in the presence of male and female soldiers, and no sim card was found. 

A former head of Shin Bet advised the woman to file a complaint, and the attorney general himself convened a special meeting to discuss the case.

But in 2021, the case was dropped on a “deficient evidentiary basis.” 

The investigation involved three Shin Bet staff and three army officers, with some of them, have admitted the allegations during their questioning. That’s why by dropping the case, the Justice Ministry wasn’t implying that the incident didn’t take place but rather claiming that it was impossible to determine who ordered the act. The three officers who were questioned about the incident blamed one another.

The Palestinian woman now seeks a retrial where everyone involved in the incident could be prosecuted. Since the act was both immoral and illegal, she argues that it doesn’t matter who ordered it as enabling or witnessing such a dreadful crime cannot go unpunished in any rule of law. 

“In a situation in which there is no dispute that acts that constitute rape and sodomy were committed, [in which] there is sufficient evidence and when no one is punished, it’s outrageous and unbearable,” the woman’s appeal said.

“The investigation focused on the identity of the person who was responsible for giving the specific directive relating to carrying out the search of the [woman’s] intimate organs, but it ignored the direct responsibility of those involved in committing the offence,” the appeal added.

Public Committee Against Torture (PCATI), an NGO based in Israel, filed the woman’s appeal. 

The organisation’s spokesperson, Tali Shamir, said in a previous opinion piece for Haaretz that Mavtan, the Justice Ministry department overseeing complaints against Shin Bet, received 1,300 complaints between 2001 and 2021. However, in this time period, only two complaints have led to recommendations for a criminal probe, Shamir said.

But there have been some instances where Israeli officers working for different divisions have been convicted of similar crimes.

In 2021, a Civil Administration military officer was convicted of raping a Palestinian woman and sexually harassing others, and extorting them for sexual favors between 2013 and 2014. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2016. The military placed a gag order on the case for five years but overturned the decision, allowing the media to report it in October 2021.

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