The deceased, a student at Hebron University and resident of the village of Dura, was arrested in 1995 and sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment. Two weeks before his death, he was transferred from the Ketziot prison to Megiddo prison and was placed in a wing designated for prisoners labelled security prisoners. According to prison procedures, inmates were free to move about most of the day, except during count. A few days before he was killed, the Deceased was called into one of the cells and two other inmates entered with him. They tortured and “interrogated” him under suspicion of collaborating with prison authorities. He was tied and beaten all over his body, crying for help until he eventually died. During all this time, prison authorities did nothing.
The Court ruled that the State was aware such an event was possible since “interrogations” of prisoners by prisoners were a known phenomenon in the prison. The prison commander commented that “internal interrogations” were a common occurrence known to prison wardens. Thus, for example, a short while before the Deceased’s death, another prisoner was killed in the prison under similar circumstances. Following that event, a special procedure was prepared with instructions on how to handle a prisoner who was subjected to such an “interrogation".
The Court also ruled that the prisoner counting procedure was negligent, deficient and did not allow for effective supervision of the prisoners or attention to their medical condition. The count took place quickly, with the prisoners sitting with their backs to the wardens. A deputy company commander who was in charge of the wing where the Deceased was killed testified that with the method used for counting the inmates, one could not tell whether, when a certain name was called, another person answered in his place. Further testimonies during trial revealed that there were never any surprise counts and because of the darkness in the cells, the prison wardens did not focus on the prisoners and their condition but rather on the pages on which their names were written. The Court found that the prison wardens did not notice the bruises on the Deceased’s body and did not know that someone else replied when his name was called because of the negligent method of counting.
The Court ruled that prison authorities should have counted the prisoners while the latter were facing the wardens. That way, they would have been able to recognize the prisoners and note signs of distress. Alternatively, technological means could have been employed which would ensure complete supervision of the prisoners’ behaviour in the cells and prevent harm being done to them. Financial considerations could not excuse the State’s omissions. The Court noted that such a brutal beating over such a long period of time should have been discovered on time and that the death could have been prevented.
In its ruling, the Court criticized the defence presented by the State. In addition to the claim that it should be exempt from liability due to the Deceased’s “willingly putting himself at risk”, the State claimed that it was not responsible for his death on the grounds that “no standing shall rise from an unjust cause.” The Court noted – rightfully – that this was a pointless, irrelevant claim which was unrelated to the State’s duty to protect the wellbeing of prisoners in its custody. The State claimed it should be exempted under section 5 of the Civil Wrongs Law, as the act of guarding in a prison is a “wartime action”. The Court ruled that these claims were “unacceptable and it would have been better if they had not been made in the first place. It is regrettable that they were made.”
The Court ordered 1,044,200 NIS for the following heads of damage: pain and suffering (250,000 NIS), shortening of the Deceased’s lifespan (500,000 NIS), loss of earnings in lost years (271,500 NIS) and burial expenses (22,700 NIS).