An Israeli human rights group has concluded that the absence of accountability “encourages soldiers to kill Palestinian civilians”. In its annual report published this week, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, B’Tselem, said, “From the start of the second intifada in the year 2000 until April 2011, B’Tselem submitted many requests to the military prosecutor to open investigations into the military police, which included about 304 cases where Israeli soldiers had killed Palestinians.”
Of those requests, said B’Tselem, the prosecutor investigated just 73 cases. “Nine of these resulted in indictments,” the report continued, “and twenty-three were closed with no further action taken against the soldiers involved.” A further 37 cases were brought to an end by the military police themselves while still awaiting decisions from the prosecutor’s office; the remaining 14 cases are still under investigation.
According to information provided to B’Tselem, 168 complaints will not lead to investigations. The report stressed that “the principle of personal responsibility requires Israel to investigate substantially and without bias any possibility of the commission of international crimes by individuals who are serving Israel or are serving with Israel’s approval.” When the results of investigations supported the original suspicions, it added, the state of Israel “is obliged to arrest suspects and bring them to trial”. The non-fulfilment of this obligation, claims B’Tselem, gives the go-ahead to other countries to arrest those who are suspected of committing such crimes in order to bring them to trial or extradite them to a third country.
“Since 2000 and the start of the second intifada, Israel has evaded its duty to provide a record of the serious violations of human rights that were committed against the population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, for which it is accountable,” the report said. “This is reflected in Israel’s strict policy, applicable in the West Bank until April 2011, not to open a criminal investigation when soldiers had killed Palestinians who were not involved in the fighting, as well as the legislation that removes the option for Palestinians to claim damages in Israeli courts if they have been affected by the illegal operations carried out by the occupation forces.”