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B’Tselem: ‘Stop whitewashing suspected crimes in Gaza’


19 March 2009

Israeli human rights organizations have reiterated demands that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz reconsider his refusal to establish an independent investigative body to examine military proceedings during Operation Cast Lead. Such an investigation is critical following the revelation of soldier testimonies concerning the killing of innocent Palestinians revealed this morning in Haaretz. Many Palestinian accounts have reflected a similar picture to that revealed today, triggering suspicions that today’s revelations represent only the tip of the iceberg, and that they are the result of norms of conduct that have taken hold throughout the army.

A letter sent by the Israeli Human Rights Organizations to the Attorney General makes clear that the government’s failure to establish an independent investigation constitutes a violation of Israel’s responsibilities under international law. At the same time, it is a dangerous act which illustrates cowardice in the midst of possible IDF criminal activity, behavior that increases the possibility that Israeli officers and soldiers will face trials abroad.

While the Attorney General is content with only an internal military investigation, this is not an effective strategy. The unaccountability of internal military investigations was only reinforced by today’s events in which the content of revealed soldier testimonies was not evidently known by military investigators.

Circumstances point to the inadequacy of internal military investigations. The Military Advocate General only ordered the opening of an investigation by the Military Criminal Investigation Division following the publication of the Haaretz story, three weeks after the relevant materials reached the Chief of the General Staff. This tardiness follows a pattern of failures to investigate suspicions of serious crimes and illegitimate officer orders. Such partial investigation represents only a fraction of the necessary attention into this matter and raises suspicions that the norms of whitewashing serious crimes have spread across all ranks of the army.

Human Rights Organizations in Israel calling for the opening of an independent investigation: The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Bimkom, B’tselem, Gisha, Hamoked, The Public Committee Against Torture, Yesh Din, Physicians for Human Rights, Rabbis for Human Rights, Adalah, and Itach – Women Lawyers for Social Justice.