Jannah Theme License is not validated, Go to the theme options page to validate the license, You need a single license for each domain name.
USA

How the Israeli military is investigating possible wrongdoing: NPR

An Israeli army soldier walks past a main battle tank parked near the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on April 30.

Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images


An Israeli army soldier walks past a main battle tank parked near the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on April 30.

Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images

TEL AVIV, Israel — On April 14, thousands of Palestinians, mostly women and children, began marching from southern Gaza to the northern part of the enclave after a rumor spread that the The Israeli army would allow the safe passage of women, children and elderly men. But it was just a rumor.

Israeli soldiers fired on the crowd as they approached a checkpoint, killing five people and wounding nearly two dozen, according to a rescue worker and journalists at the scene. Subsequently, the Israeli military said the incident was “under investigation.”

But what does that mean?

“In general, not all incidents and complaints are investigated criminally,” but rather operationally, says Ziv Stahl, executive director of Yesh Din, an Israeli organization that provides legal protection to Palestinians.

Stahl says that when the Israeli military is accused of violating its own – or international – rules of conduct, an internal agency known as the military attorney general oversees the process. The agency begins by having its lawyers interview personnel involved in the incident. These interviews, Stahl says, are confidential and are not initially intended for criminal investigations, but for operational investigations.

“The army grants them privileges and promises that if it is opened, it will not be the subject of a criminal investigation,” she explains. “So the soldiers can speak freely about what happened.”

And that’s where the problem starts, says Stahl.

“The second thing is that it helps coordinate testimony because soldiers are exposed to what others are saying,” she says. “There is no collection of evidence at this stage regarding the criminal offense, if there is one. So the guidance is sometimes more operational than criminal.”

Israeli legal adviser Tal Becker looks down and South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola sits in the foreground January 11 in The Hague, Netherlands, as South Africa asks the International Criminal Court to indicate measures regarding alleged human rights violations by Israel in Gaza. Band.

Michel Porro/Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Michel Porro/Getty Images

Israeli officials are concerned about a possible International Criminal Court investigation into government leaders over alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza. The prospect of possible arrest warrants for Israeli leaders highlights how the Israeli military investigates personnel accused of violating its own standards of wartime conduct.

Each year, the Israel Defense Forces receive hundreds of complaints of wrongdoing. In the past, these generally focused on its soldiers deployed in the occupied West Bank. But since the start of the war with Hamas last October, complaints range from soldiers shooting unarmed Palestinian refugees to the April 1 incident in which seven aid workers were killed when Israeli drones fired on a convoy belonging to World Central Kitchen.

According to human rights experts in Israel, the country’s military has demonstrated a lack of transparency and willingness to investigate its own soldiers. Stahl points out that some of the most significant problems arise during the first phase of internal investigations within the Israeli military.

People inspect the site where World Central Kitchen employees were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, on April 2. World Central Kitchen, the food charity founded by chef José Andrés, ended its work in the Gaza Strip after an Israeli strike killed seven of its employees on April 1.

Abdel Karim Hana/AP


hide caption

toggle caption

Abdel Karim Hana/AP

One of his organization’s most pressing concerns is how long the investigation process can take — often more than a year, sometimes much longer. “So at the point where there might be a decision to try to open an investigation, the memory is not very good, the evidence is not there,” she said.

Additionally, alleged victims of these investigations are often not interviewed until late in the process, says Israeli legal expert Smadar Ben-Natan, who teaches at the University of Washington. “The victim’s testimony is often the first thing we think about when we open an investigation,” explains Ben-Natan. “And here it’s a bit the opposite: they usually first hear what the military forces have to say and then only have access to certain testimonies from the victims.”

Ben-Natan says that from a legal perspective, when you add up all these elements of how the Israeli military conducts investigations into its own conduct, it is difficult not to come to one conclusion: “I believes that experience has shown for many years now that many of these investigations are not fair investigations. »

In response to a list of detailed questions from NPR, the Israel Defense Forces sent a general statement that read: “The IDF operates in accordance with the law and, in doing so, is obligated to thoroughly examine any allegations of violations of the law by its soldiers. Each complaint is investigated on its merits, including through a criminal investigation if necessary.”

But Israeli military data from late 2022 reviewed by NPR shows that complaints to the military rarely lead to anything.

Among 1,260 complaints about Israeli soldiers harming Palestinians and their property between 2017 and 2021, only 11 resulted in charges, less than 1% of all complaints.

Despite this record, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem was one of several groups that would work with the Israeli military to collect evidence for its investigations, B’Tselem spokesperson said , Sarit Michaeli. “We were contacting witnesses. We referred them to the military police,” explains Michaeli. “My colleagues would spend hours coordinating meetings between witnesses and military police to get their testimony taken. Sometimes we would take evidence and send it back.”

However, after years of collecting evidence to aid the Israeli military in its investigations, Michaeli says B’Tselem has rarely seen its cases move beyond the initial investigative stage. “We did this for many years and finally came to the conclusion that there was no point,” says Michaeli, “that no matter what we did, the result was always the same: no accountability.”

Michaeli says B’Tselem stopped referring cases to the Israeli military altogether in 2016.

“We came to the conclusion that continuing to refer cases to Israeli investigative bodies is not only counterproductive because it does not achieve real accountability, but it also gives the appearance of a functioning system,” says -She.

B’Tselem, Michaeli says, continues to collect evidence when Israeli soldiers kill or injure Palestinians, but instead of returning the evidence to the Israeli military, the group now publishes it on social media and in the free press. Michaeli says there is another way to get justice, though.

“If the investigative mechanisms of the Israeli security forces fail to operate in a manner consistent with international standards, there are international mechanisms,” she said.

Michaeli believes that the International Criminal Court should step in and investigate allegations of large-scale violations by Israel. In fact, there is evidence that the ICC is investigating Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, and in recent weeks Israeli officials have become increasingly concerned that the body will issue arrest warrants for Israel’s military and political leaders.

This photo taken during a media tour organized by the Israeli military on January 27 shows Israeli soldiers patrolling an area of ​​Khan Younis, the main city in southern Gaza, amid continuing fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Nicolas Garcia/AFP via Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Nicolas Garcia/AFP via Getty Images

Although the ICC has not confirmed any action against Israeli leaders, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the prospect of arrest warrants against Israeli leaders an “outrage of historic proportions.”

But according to Michaeli, “the sad and very unfortunate truth is that there are no real, functioning, honest and decent mechanisms to hold Israeli perpetrators accountable. If we continue to operate in a way that legitimizes internal Israeli mechanisms, we do a disservice to the victims and their families, but also to the overall goal of protecting human rights. »

Alon Avital contributed to this report from Tel Aviv, Israel.

NPR News

Back to top button