Brian Avery, an American peace activist shot in the face by Israeli
forces in 2003, has sought for a thorough investigation of his case
since his injury, but the Israeli Army has ignored several Israeli
Court decisions ordering an investigation. Wednesday, the Israeli High
Court gave the Israli Army 45 days to explain why no investigation has
been carried out.
The Court chastised the Army for failing to launch a criminal investigation into the shooting of Avery, which occurred in March 2003 when Israeli forces fired live ammunition into a group of non-violent, mainly Palestinian demonstrators at a protest in the city of Jenin.
Brian Avery, a 24-year-old member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), arrived in Israel in January 2003, three months before he was shot. He has said he wants to know who was behind the shooting which left him critically wounded with severe injuries to his face and skull.
On Wednesday, Avery's lawyer, Michael Sfard, filed a petition for the Court to open a criminal investigation into the shooting. The court agreed to allow the case to proceed and gave the army 45 days to respond to Avery's request.
Despite the fact that the Army was ordered in February 2005 to investigate the shooting and to interview witnesses who had submitted statements, it has failed to do so.
Yuval Roitman, the lawyer representing the army, said that the army believes that the 'internal investigation' that was carried out at the time of the incident by the Army was sufficient, and no further investigation is necessary — despite the fact that the 'internal investigation' concluded, against all evidence, that Avery was not shot by Israeli bullets.
"The army field investigation that was conducted was very thorough and independent," said Roitman. "The army thinks it's the way to investigate events that occur in war time. One has to remember that the incident occurred in the middle of 2003 when there was a lot of fighting in Jenin and all over the West Bank."
The 'internal investigation' to which Roitman is referring concluded with the statement,
"Mr. Avery's injury is an unfortunate incident. ISM [International Solidarity Movement, the organization with which Avery was volunteering] activists knowingly endanger themselves by operating during curfew in combat situations, seeking clashes and frictions with [Israeli] soldiers. No findings indicate that Mr. Avery was injured by [Israeli] fire in any of the above-mentioned events."
That conclusion sparked outrage at the time, both from peace activists who work with the ISM, an organization that acts to protect the civilian population in Israeli-occupied Palestinian land, and from witnesses to the shooting, who all attest that there was no gunfire coming from anyone but the Israeli army when Avery was shot.
Avery's disabilities from the shooting include impaired vision in his left eye and several missing teeth. Avery had bone grafts to reconstruct his upper left jaw bone, and his left eye was damaged.
The Israeli Army has consistently ignored Court orders for an investigation, leading an Israeli judge to say during a hearing in 2005, "As a nation, the least we can do for a man who is sitting here with very serious wounds is to clarify what happened to him." Due to the Israeli Army's obsruction, however, that clarification has never yet occurred.
Avery is one of three internationals shot by Israeli forces in the early part of 2003. The others, Rachel Corrie, an American, and Tom Hurndall, from England, were both killed.