The odds of an Israeli soldier being prosecuted for harming Palestinians, or their property is almost zero, according to a new report by Israeli human rights group Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights. Analysis of the data for the 2019–2020 period shows that only two per cent of complaints filed by Palestinians against Israeli forces for abuse lead to prosecutions.
In 2019–2020 the Military Advocate General Corps (MAGC) charged with handling offenses involving soldiers who harmed Palestinians or their property in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, received a total of 273 complaints regarding suspected offenses by soldiers against Palestinians or their property.
Of those, the vast majority – 72 per cent – were closed with no criminal investigation. Some 56 investigations were opened, just one-fifth of the total number of complaints made during this time period, for which a decision on further action has been made.
Fifty-two complaints were closed following investigation, or when the investigation had not been completed. Of the 273 complaints only four resulted in an indictment, meaning that the chances of a complaint made by a Palestinian leading to the Israeli soldier being prosecuted is only two per cent.
Yesh Din says that there exists a deliberate policy of reducing the number of investigations being opened against Israeli soldiers and in the few investigations that are opened, the proportion of investigations that yielded sufficient evidence and culminated in the prosecution of suspects remains extremely low.
“Analysis of the data indicates that no profound change has effectively taken place in the military system’s attitude towards criminal activity by soldiers against Palestinians,” said Yesh Din. “Contrary to the prevailing opinion in Israel, the military law enforcement system seeks to avoid investigating and prosecuting soldiers who harm Palestinians, thereby failing to provide Palestinians with protection from offenses by Israeli commanders and soldiers.”
In the rare cases where soldiers were convicted of harming Palestinians, they were sentenced to very lenient, at times ridiculous sentences in relation to the original offenses alleged in the complaints.
Calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an investigation into Israeli crimes, Yesh Din said that the world body has the power to investigate war crimes where the country in which the alleged crimes were committed fails to investigate such suspicions properly, due to lack of competence or will.
“The failure of the State of Israel to fulfil its basic duty of protecting Palestinians and enforcing the law against soldiers who have committed offences against Palestinians has effectively paved the way for the intervention of international mechanisms,” Yesh Din said.
The revelation that Palestinians have almost a zero chance of justice following harm caused by Israeli soldiers comes with Israel announcing last week that it will not investigate the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.