Israeli human rights organization BTselem and yesh din: Israel is unwilling to investigate harm caused to Palestinians

B’Tselem and Yesh Din, the two leading Israeli human rights organizations in monitoring the investigations of offenses committed by security forces against Palestinians, find that the military law enforcement system is a complete failure. After examining the results of hundreds of investigations, the organizations assert that the existing investigation mechanism precludes serious investigations and is marred by severe structural flaws that render it incapable of conducting professional investigations.

The existing apparatus is incapable of investigating policy issues or breaches of law by senior ranking military officials, and fails to promote accountability among those responsible. The figures show that the Israeli authorities are unwilling to investigate human rights violations committed by security forces against Palestinians. The failure of the Government of Israel to implement the Turkel Commission’s recommendations, more than a year and a half after their publication, only reinforces this conclusion.

B’Tselem has decided to break with its previous practice concerning military operations in Gaza and reject a request made by the Military Advocate for Operational Matters Lt. Col. Ronen Hirsch to provide the military with information regarding “irregular” incidents that occurred during Operation Protective Edge. B’Tselem has changed its approach due to the poor track record of MAG Corps investigations so far.

B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad said: “B’Tselem believes it is crucial to investigate the directives and orders given to the forces by top political officials and military commanders. This is especially true of suspicions regarding unlawful policies concerning attacks, which received prior approval from the MAG Corps. Common sense has it that a body cannot investigate itself. Yet, again, the military will be investigating its own conduct in Operation Protective Edge; again, these investigations will not be supervised by anyone outside the military. It would be a welcome change if, instead of the existing whitewashing mechanisms, an independent apparatus were established to investigate suspected violations of international humanitarian law. Were such a mechanism established with the real aim of uncovering the truth and taking measures against those responsible – we would do our best to professionally assist its work.”

Newly published Yesh Din figures on investigations of suspected offenses committed against Palestinians by soldiers show a marked drop in the rate of indictments compared to previous years. Yesh Din calls for an urgent and comprehensive reform of the investigative apparatus and for legislation that treats and punishes war crimes as such. These measures are crucial for ensuring professional, effective investigations and the accountability of those responsible.

Neta Patrick, Executive Director of Yesh Din: “The IDF’s investigative system has failed. The figures we are publishing must, especially now, raise questions over Israel’s lack of interest in conducting serious professional investigations. Years of research and monitoring of the military law enforcement system by Yesh Din have proven that the mechanisms in place cannot carry out effective investigations as a matter of course, not to mention during wartime. Every year, we caution against the sorry state of the investigation system. However, it appears that Israel refuses to deal with these structural failings or take minimal steps to correct them, despite harsh criticism voiced by public commissions and by civil society organizations. The inescapable conclusion is that the Government of Israel is not willing to investigate harm caused to Palestinians.”

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