B’Tselem Stops Referring Palestinian Mistreatment Complaints to Israeli Military

One of the leading Israeli human rights organizations Wednesday announced it would stop referring complaints to the Israeli military on mistreatments of Palestinians.

B’Tselem said in a press statement that it would stop referring complaints to the Israeli military law enforcement system “in order to avoid contributing further to the pretense inherent in the work of this system.”

The Jerusalem-based human rights organization explained that “there is no longer any point in pursuing justice and defending human rights by working with a system whose real function is measured by its ability to continue to successfully cover up unlawful acts and protect perpetrators.”

It said that it would continue to document and report on human rights violations by Israel in the occupied Palestinian Territories (oPT), but it would “stop submitting complaints, coordinating meetings between the ]military[ investigators and Palestinian victims and eyewitnesses, and securing various documents for the investigation authorities.”

Over the course of 25 years of work, the Jerusalem-based human rights organization has collected evidence of Israeli military’s abuses against Palestinians in the oPT and submitted it for the Israeli military law enforcement system to investigate.

In a new report released concurrently with the statement, the organization examines the fulfillment of the “narrowly defined” role of Israeli military law enforcement system.

“However, an examination of the operation of the military law enforcement system indicates that it makes no attempt to fulfill even this ed mandate,” it said.

The organization detailed that since the eruption of the second intifada (uprising) in late 2000, they demanded the military to investigate 739 cases in the West Bank, in which soldiers killed, injured, beat or used Palestinians as human shields, or damaged Palestinian property.

In 182 cases – almost 25% – the military failed to open an investigation and in nearly half of them (343 cases), the investigation was opened, but then closed with no further action, the organization found.

In just 25 cases (accounting for three percent), charges were brought against soldiers accused of mistreating Palestinians.

The organization also found that thirteen other cases were referred for disciplinary action and a total of 132 cases were still being investigated and the military had no record of 44 others.

The organization said that almost half of the cases were closed without any further action for “absence of guilt”. In such cases, the military “simply assumed” that soldiers accounts of an incident were “reliable – usually with no supporting evidence.”

In cases involving death of Palestinians, the organization said the military closed investigation of the grounds that the deaths were in “combat situations”, which according to the human rights organization, granted “sweeping immunity to soldiers from criminal investigations, far above and beyond that granted by international humanitarian law.”

“Among other things, the semblance of a functioning justice system allows Israeli officials to deny claims made both in Israel and abroad that Israel does not enforce the law on soldiers who harm Palestinians. In so doing, the state ensures that the military law enforcement system will remain in the sole purview of the military. The military, in turn, will be able to continue its investigation policy in which only the junior ranks are (ostensibly) investigated, while senior commanders and civilian superiors are absolved of accountability for unlawful acts committed under their authority,” it concluded.

“These appearances also help grant legitimacy – both in Israel and abroad – to the continuation of the occupation. It makes it easier to reject criticism about the injustices of the occupation, thanks to the military’s outward pretense that even it considers some acts unacceptable, and backs up this claim by saying that it is already investigating these actions. In so doing, not only does the state manages to uphold the perception of a decent, moral law enforcement system, but also maintains the military’s image as an ethical military that takes action against these acts (defined as “aberrations”) and even has an extensive, professional system for doing so,” it concluded.

Source: Wafa