IDF legal division head, Justice Shoham reject pressure over war crimes probe

The IDF investigates itself because of its values, not pressure from the International Criminal Court, says Maj.-Gen Danny Efroni.

January 18, 2015 02:28
2 minute read.
Operation Protective Edge

IDF soldiers take part in Operation Protective Edge.. (photo credit: ANNA GOLIKOV)

Military Advocate-General Maj.-Gen. Danny Efroni and Supreme Court Justice Uri Shoham on Friday rebuffed pressure from politicians and NGOs over how the IDF is investigating itself over war crimes allegations.

In a speech at a conference at the Netanya Academic College, Efroni – who had been publicly pressured by Ya’alon recently to drop any criminal investigation into the August 1 military response to the kidnapping of IDF soldier Hadar Goldin – asserted his authority to criminally investigate even the highest echelons of the IDF.

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“Our ability to bring senior officers to justice exists and we are able to open investigations against them,” Efroni said. He added that the IDF investigates itself because of its own values and not international pressure from the International Criminal Court or elsewhere.

The battle over the MAG’s independence has taken on an even greater resonance with the Palestinian Authority’s recent move for war crimes investigations against Israelis over the summer Gaza war.

One of the IDF’s chief potential defenses under ICC rules is to rebuff ICC involvement by showing it has conducted its own independent investigations into war crimes allegations.

Efroni recalled the recent questioning of Givati commander Col. Ofer Winter, saying, “There are dozens like him who have been questioned, officers above his rank,” while qualifying that an investigation does not automatically mean an indictment. “Many of those cases were closed in the end and nothing came of them,” he pointed out.

Efroni also said that in around 80 percent of the cases, war crimes investigations would not be necessary, though he didn't elaborate regarding the 80%.

Efroni added that he has the authority “to open an investigation against a general and even the IDF chief-of-staff,” noting that “happily it has not come to that.”

While still not explicitly mentioned Ya’alon, Justice Shoham, a former IDF advocate-general, made comments apparently directed at him, saying, “Statements and announcements in the media from the political or IDF operational echelon are out of place” (Ya’alon is by far the most senior politician who has commented.) Shoham added, “The moment that the MAG surrenders to pressure, he loses the faith of the public and also of families of victims.” He asserted that if the IDF killed civilians and the MAG was seen as deferring to politicians “no one will believe that his investigations and handling of the issue are independent.”

The Supreme Court justice added, “We must defend the independence of the MAG and ensure that he can act without any pressure.”

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