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How Israeli soldiers are protected from criminal investigations

Human rights organisation Yesh Din's request for law enforcement statistics regarding complaints about IDF soldiers paints a bleak picture for Palestinians under occupation. Supplied by the IDF spokesperson on January 23, 2013 and analysed by Yesh Din, the report discerns a trend of impunity which continues to fortify the Israeli government's policy of discrimination and violence, whilst limiting Palestinians' right to self-determination.

Of the 240 complaints by Palestinians to the Military Police Criminal Investigations Divisions (MPCID), only 103 investigations were opened during 2012.

The only indictment in 2012 concerned an investigation opened that year in which an IDF soldier was accused of violence against a Palestinian detainee in 2010. Yesh Din has not received a copy of the ruling from the IDF. Other investigations concern the killing of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, looting, violence, injuries and vandalism.

The decline in investigations, which by no means signifies an indictment against IDF soldiers and criminal activity, is part of a bureaucratic process which annihilates any semblance of justice for Palestinians. As explained in a 2011 publication by Yesh Din entitled 'Alleged investigation: The failure of investigations into offenses committed by IDF soldiers against Palestinians', since the Second Intifada, criminal investigations into alleged abuses are 'conditional upon the holding of a preliminary inquiry'. The decision whether to open an inquiry rests with the Military Advocate General's Corps, who would then hand over responsibility to the MPCID until the investigation is completed. A military advocate would then decide whether the investigation yielded any proof of a criminal offence.

Preliminary investigations are also assessed by the forces who have allegedly committed the violation, and it is based on such information that a decision is taken regarding whether to open an investigation or not. Palestinians filing complaints are side-lined by this bureaucratic and unjust procedure which renders the victim invisible. During the debriefing process, no comments are taken from Palestinian victims of IDF abuses making the process more of an 'internal examination' than a criminal inquiry.

Furthermore, article 539a (b)(2) of the Military Justice Law states that 'debriefing materials will be confidential to all persons and provided, in part or in whole, only to those military bodies who need the debriefing for the fulfilment of their duties'. Limiting access to IDF personnel has a major impact upon the work of human rights organisations, hindering possible appeals against decisions where an inquiry has been refused. Other concerns are the possible coordination of testimonies between IDF soldiers, the reconstruction of criminal activities into misdemeanour and the destruction of criminal evidence.

Palestinians in the West Bank do not have access to MPCID. The alternative is to speak to human rights groups and NGOs about filing a complaint against IDF criminal activity. Whilst offering an alternative to silence, the mediation process fails to address the narratives of Palestinians in person.

In Israel's manipulation of justice, Palestinians are forced to contend with a system based upon negligence of human rights in order to consolidate a structure of secrecy and impunity. The occupation's obsession with the deconstruction of memory presents unsustainable options for Palestinians, creating a vicious cycle in which security concerns are once again presented as justification for further reprisals sanctioned by the State of Israel.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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