Israeli Court to hear testimonies in unlawful killing of activist Rachel Corrie

Israeli Court to hear testimonies in unlawful killing of activist Rachel Corrie

On March 10, the Haifa District Court will begin hearing eyewitness testimonies in a civil lawsuit filed by Rachel Corrie’s family against the State of Israel for her unlawful killing in Rafah, Gaza. Rachel Corrie, an American student activist and human rights defender from Olympia, Washington was crushed to death on March 16, 2003 by a Caterpillar D9R bulldozer while nonviolently protesting Palestinian home demolition with fellow members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). The trial is expected to shed light on the circumstances of her death and hold the Israeli military responsible for it, after the Israeli government failed to conduct a thorough, credible and transparent investigation into her killing.

“As we approach the seven-year anniversary of Rachel’s killing, my family and I are still searching for justice. The brutal death of my daughter should never have happened. We believe the Israeli army must be held accountable for her unlawful killing,” said Rachel’s mother, Cindy Corrie who will be attending the trial next week. “We hope this trial will also illustrate the need for accountability for thousands of lives lost, or indelibly injured, by the Israeli occupation and bring attention to the assault on nonviolent human rights defenders – Palestinian, Israeli, and international,” stated Ms. Corrie.

The lawsuit, filed in March 2005, is one piece of the Corrie family’s seven-year effort to uncover information and pursue truth and justice for their daughter and sister. On March 17, 2003, the day after Rachel was killed, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised President Bush a “thorough, credible, and transparent” investigation. In 2003, the Israeli military police concluded that the two soldiers who operated the D9R Caterpillar bulldozer that killed Rachel did not see her, though eyewitnesses indicate she was clearly visible, wearing a florescent orange jacket. The case was closed, no charges were brought, and the Israeli Government declined to release the investigative report. The lawsuit charges that the Israeli government violated both Israeli and international law.

“The killing of Rachel Corrie is yet another example of Israel’s unlawful attacks on unarmed civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” said attorney Hussein Abu Hussein who is representing Rachel Corrie’s family. “The Israeli soldiers and commanders acted in violation of both Israeli and international law prohibiting the targeting of civilians and the disproportionate use of force against non-violent protest with blatant disregard to human lives,” added Abu Hussein.

In 2004, Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, wrote to the family of Rachel Corrie that the Israeli investigation into her killing was not “thorough, credible, and transparent,” and advised the family to “use the Israeli court system.”

Several other U.S. officials have voiced concerns or raised questions about the Israeli investigation, including former U.S. Senator and now Vice President Joseph Biden, as well as other Department of State officials in the Bush and Obama Administrations.