Rachel Corrie’s family appeals to Israeli Supreme Court
By Lil Jackson
The family of slain American activist Rachel Corrie was at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Wednesday to appeal a 2012 judgment made by a Haifa district court, which ruled that the Israeli military was not responsible for the young woman’s death in 2003.
Rachel was crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer on 16 March 2003 while taking part in a non-violent protest against the demolition of civilian homes in Rafah, southern Gaza. At the time, Rachel was working with the International Solidarity Movement.
In an interview with Palestine Monitor on Thursday, Craig Corrie, Rachel’s father, fondly described Rachel as an "energetic" woman who "refused to look away from marginalized people."
The Corrie family is seeking justice and say they "deserve a clear answer" on why the Israeli military have remained unaccountable for the death of their daughter.
"There has been no responsibility taken. All along Rachel has been blamed for her own killing, without looking at the responsibility of all parties involved, the military and so forth," Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother, said in an interview with Israel Social TV.
A hearing of Rachel’s case in 2012 saw 23 witnesses testify at 15 hearings spread over a 16-month period. A Haifa District Court Judge upheld the 2003 Israeli military investigation, stating, "The State did not risk the defendant…The defendant risked herself".
Not satisfied by Haifa District Court’s verdict in August 2012, and 9 years after filing a civic suit against the State of Israel, Rachel’s family decided to appeal.
Mr. Corrie told Palestine Monitor the threefold reasoning behind the decision to appeal. During the trial in Haifa, the court failed to address the significance and importance of international humanitarian law when dealing with Rachel’s case. In their brief to the Supreme Court, state attorneys argued that Rachel fell out of the protection of international humanitarian law. They said that only the "occupied population" fall within the ambit of international law. Arguing that international humanitarian law covers only the "occupied population" leaves a great many people vulnerable, and as Mr Corrie said, "a lot of people unprotected".
Whether the area Rachel was working in that day was categorized as a "closed military zone" remains unclear. "Nobody could produce a written order that it was a closed military zone," stated Craig Corrie, adding that the Colonel in charge the day Rachel died confirmed this in his testimony, stating that it was not a closed military zone. However, the Haifa District Judge, Oded Gershon, concluded at the end of the 2012 trial that Rachel was acting in a 'closed military zone’.
Evidentiary differences formed a significant part of Wednesday’s appeal. Israeli military personnel, during the trial in Haifa, presented two different accounts of what transpired the day Rachel died. The disparity only added to the collective frustration felt by the Corrie family. In addition, the Corrie family’s attorney, Hussein Abu Hussein, argued that the Haifa District Court’s verdict should be overturned as the State did not undertake a thorough investigation, failing to interview key witnesses and secure integral evidence. Mr Corrie described a conflict of different photographic evidence from the day Rachel died, stating it was "very clear" that the image that had been given to the US Embassy was not a true reflection of the incident. Further, the two Israeli military soldiers who undertook the original investigation into Rachel’s death had little investigative experience. The Judge at Wednesday’s hearing corroborated this fact, commenting that the original investigation was "thoughtless."
The State attorney claims that responsibility for Rachel’s death does not lie with Israel or the Israeli military. They rely on Gaza’s status as a war zone in March 2003, arguing that Rachel entered the area at her own risk.
Mr. Corrie remains positive, saying that at the hearing on Wednesday the "judges understood the issues and asked the relevant questions." There is no time limit on deliberations regarding the re-opening of the case. Only time will tell.
"It started and remains about Rachel," said Mr. Corrie, but if this process can shed any light on the impunity that the Israeli military has enjoyed for a while now, then that can be deemed as positive, not only for internationals acting in solidarity with Palestinians, but for the Palestinian people as well.
The Rachel Corrie appeal comes at a time when sensitivities are high. The unlawful killing of two teenagers at Ofer Prison last Thursday, reiterates further that the issue of impunity needs to be addressed. Both cases demonstrate the disregard the Israeli military often shows towards the lives of people in occupied Palestinian territory. Mr. Corrie poignantly said there is no comparison in the value of a human life. However, the question regarding the application of international humanitarian law is an important one, and left unanswered it threatens to expose a great number of people to violence and harm.
The case has become more than a stand against the State of Israel and the Israeli military, it is now questioning the impunity of the Israeli military.