Ramallah, occupied West Bank – Two years after his 17-year-old son’s death, Siam Nawara hopes for justice.
Siam’s son, Nadeem Nawara, was killed on May 15, 2014, during a Nakba Day protest outside of Israel’s Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
Siam and his lawyer have fought through several court postponements during the past two years, but the case is finally expected to move forward on Monday.
“It has been difficult to get to this point, but we are confident in our case, and we are confident that this court date will finally come to fruition,” Siam’s lawyer, Firas Easli, told Al Jazeera.
|“I know none of this can bring my son back. My goal is to show these [Israeli] soldiers that they will be held accountable for killing our youth,”says Nadeem’s father [Abed al-Qaisi/Al Jazeera]|
Over the past two years, Siam has navigated Israel’s military court system while launching his own advocacy campaign to get the case heard.
Israeli forces initially alleged that they had only shot rubber-coated steel bullets during the incident, suggesting that the live rounds that killed Nadeem and 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Thahr must have come from Palestinian gunmen.
The Abu Thahr family refused an autopsy, leading to the closure of Muhammad’s case, but Siam has been working with several NGOs in the occupied West Bank and Israel to prove that Israeli forces fatally shot his son.
After CCTV footage, lined up with news footage of the protest, was released, Siam felt he had enough evidence to challenge Israel’s original statement that the bullet that killed Nadeem had not come from Israeli forces.
Israeli authorities initially claimed the footage had been forged or edited misleadingly – a claim that was challenged by several human rights groups – but last May, they detained border police officer Ben Deri in the case. He was later released on house arrest.
“I think the Israeli government wants the case dropped, so they keep coming up with excuses to put it off,” Siam told Al Jazeera from his small apartment in Ramallah. “It has been two years, and I am no closer to getting justice for my son’s death than I was when he was killed.”
Sceptical over what he may achieve through the Israeli justice system, Siam has been campaigning tirelessly, hoping for international pressure to help advance his case. Last summer, he spent three months in the United States, meeting with Congress members, UN officials and other NGOs to garner support.
Siam’s living room has been turned into a memorial, with plaques, posters and paintings of his slain son taking up most of the wall and counter space. He has a Facebook page,YouTube channel, crowd-funding site and newsletter dedicated to Nadeem.
Both his advocacy work and legal fees have strained his family financially, prompting Siam to sell two businesses, his car, and possibly his home next.
“Nothing is more important than justice for Nadeem. Everything else is replaceable, but my son’s life cannot be replaced,” he said.
Defense for Children International (DCI) has taken an active interest in Nadeem’s case, helping to create a 3D reenactment of the shooting that pinpoints the suspected shooter. A DCI investigation found that while the gun carried by the suspect had an attachment designed for rubber-coated steel bullets, it could also have shot live rounds.
“I know none of this can bring my son back,” Siam said. “That is not my goal. My goal is to show these soldiers that they will be held accountable for killing our youth. I want to be sure I did everything in my power to make sure another family is not going through what I am going through.”
[Can you ask the suspect, Ben Deri’s, lawyer for a comment for this story? If he doesn’t respond, we need to at least mention that we reached out to him.]
Since 2000, Israeli forces have killed more than 8,800 Palestinians, including at least 1,895 minors, according to United Nations documentation [link]. While rights groups have found many cases to be extrajudicial killings, Israeli prosecution of its own forces is rare.
Between 2000 and 2013, just five percent of investigations initiated by Israel’s internal Military Police Criminal Investigations Division resulted in indictment, according to Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights and legal advocacy group. Since 2013, the number has dropped further, to 1.4 percent.
Amid recent unrest in Israel and the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military’s actions have come under international scrutiny. Nearly 200 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces and civilians during the six-month period, compared with XXX Israelis.[Can you double-check that 200 is still the latest number, and can you also find out the latest death toll on the Israeli side?]
“The best thing that Palestinians can do is continue to capture these moments on camera,” Easli said. “The only non-refutable evidence Palestinians can depend on is [capturing] the incident on film, like that shooting a few weeks ago in Hebron.”
The Israeli soldier in the Hebron case, accused of shooting dead an injured Palestinian, has since been detained, and an investigation into the shooting launched.
Additional reporting by Abed al Qaisi