Tuesday, June 21, 2005


IDF "investigations"

Human Rights Watch will be releasing a report this week (according to Ha'aretz -- I will try to throw a link up when it is released) on the IDF's pattern of failing to take accountability for its actions against Palestinians, including unarmed civilians. Not only does the IDF investigate only about 5 percent of reported Palestinian civilian deaths, but the investigation process is subject to pressure from the military command (often pressure that results in no investigation taking place at all), that the investigation process is almost totally closed off to the injured parties. Furthermore, the IDF investigation (or lack thereof) is the last and only word on the subject.
The report notes that, in contrast with Mexico or Ireland, there is no national human rights institution in Israel that accepts complaints pertaining to human rights violations. In contrast with Turkey, Colombia and the Russian Federation, Israel is not subject to the judgment of a regional court in matters of human rights.
Then of course, there's the few times that IDF soldiers are found to have been to blame for the death of an unarmed Palestinian civilian. Even in these few cases, the results are hardly satisfactory -- if anything they are insulting.
A soldier was convicted of killing a 16-year-old Palestinian boy named Mohammed Ali Said. The punishment: two months in prison and a demotion in rank. A soldier stole a cellular phone, a cigarette lighter and $500 in cash. The punishment: six months in prison. Conscientious objectors were sentenced to 12 months in prison. According to statistics gathered by human rights organizations in Israel, from the beginning of the intifada until May 22, 2005, the IDF opened 108 investigations of deaths or injuries of Palestinians, which yielded 19 indictments and six convictions. Two soldiers were convicted of manslaughter, two were convicted of causing serious injury, and two were convicted of illegal use of weapons. The most severe sentence in these cases was 20 months in prison.
As the Human Rights Watch report notes, this kind of treatment builds an atmosphere of impunity, where the IDF soldier believes that the killing of unarmed Palestinian civilians is of no consequence. Notably, Israel defends its behavior by pointing to, guess who, the United States.
The IDF invokes the behavior of the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, and claims that the system cannot contend with the practical difficulties of investigating such a large number of cases of deaths of civilians in the territories. The report notes a resemblance in the behavior of the American army and that of the IDF in the territories, but advises Israel to follow the example of nations like the United Kingdom, Canada and Belgium, which have reformed their military judicial systems to integrate external systems of judgment and enforcement.

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