Fury after Israeli officer in charge of prisoner's shooting is 'reassigned'

Outraged Israeli human rights organisations have united in challenging the military's decision to invoke only minor penalties against a senior officer over the shooting of a bound and blindfolded Palestinian prisoner by a soldier under his command.

Lt-Col Omri Burberg has been "reassigned" and was indicted yesterday on the limited charge of "unworthy conduct" after the incident last month in which he held the Palestinian as the soldier shot him at close range in the foot with a rubber-coated bullet. The offence does not carry a custodial sentence.

The soldier, a staff sergeant who claims he was ordered to fire by the officer, has been demoted to private but faces the same charge. Lt-Col Burberg claimed he only wanted to intimidate the Palestinian, Ashraf Abu Rahmeh, after he was detained near Ni'ilin, the scene of regular unarmed demonstrations against the military's West Bank separation barrier.

Human rights group B'Tselem, which exposed the incident – shown on Israeli television after being videoed by a Palestinian woman in the village – said yesterday: "The army treats the shooting at point-blank range of a bound man [only] as inappropriate behaviour. It disgraces the values which it pretends to uphold."

And Yesh Din, the legal action group representing Mr Abu Rahmeh's family, pointed out that if the officer had been "caught smoking a joint" he would have suffered the worse penalty of a prison sentence and dishonourable discharge. It added: "This case proves once again that the military judicial system views harming innocent citizens as a public image problem and not as a moral issue."

Both groups have joined with the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) in seeking to halt the court martial against the two men long enough for them to mount a high court challenge against the lightness of the indictment. In a letter to the military advocate general, Avichai Mandelblit, ACRI pointed out that the High Court ruled in 1988 that "Harming a bound and helpless person is a shameful and cruel act, and calls for an appropriately severe response".

While acknowledging that the "severe incident" reflected a "moral failure of command that should not have happened", the military said that the Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, "recognised the positive manner" in which the officer had commanded his battalion and "commended" his actions after the incident, including his "immediate report" of it. Brigadier Mandelblit said he had taken into account "significant" penalty of reassignment, in framing the indictment.

But the lawyer acting for the victim's family, Michael Sfard, yesterday contrasted the charges with that carrying a maximum penalty of 20 years' detention of "endangering life" levelled "on a daily basis against Palestinian kids who throw stones", even if no one is hit. He added: "Of course they don't get that but they are frequently jailed for months."

Meanwhile an investigation is already underway after a later incident in which a 10-year-old boy, Ahmed Moussa, was shot dead with a live bullet after another demonstration at Ni'ilin.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'