(photo credit: INIMAGE)
IDF Chief Justice Maj.-Gen. Doron Filis has taken the rare measure of ordering a judge to run an investigation into the controversial death of a black Hebrew female soldier.
Toveet Radcliffe died from a gunshot wound to the head on February 21, 2015. The first hearing before the investigative judge regarding her death is scheduled for Monday.
Normally, only the IDF prosecution directs an investigation.
However, in this case, the IDF prosecution repeatedly refused to treat the case as anything other than a suicide, leading Filis to take the exceptional action of appointing an IDF judge to do the IDF prosecution’s job.
Radcliffe was guarding a Patriot missile battery at the Palmahim Air Force Base near Rishon Lezion at the time of her death. The IDF closed its investigation into the incident in January 2016, dubbing it a suicide and finding that no one else was involved.
Filis’s ruling and Monday’s hearing do not mean that others were involved or that Radcliffe’s death was a murder.
But it does mean that those possibilities are being taken seriously by the IDF’s highest judge.
The case is also exceptional because of Racliffe’s background, both as a woman and as a member of the small sect of black Hebrews, African- Americans who started to move to the Dimona area in 1969.
The sect incorporates aspects of both Judaism and Christianity and has often had tense relations with mainstream Israeli institutions.
That made Radcliffe – the group’s first female member to become a combat soldier – even more unusual.
Some members of Radcliffe’s family claim she was murdered and that the military police and prosecution have covered it up; others have suggested the probe was performed incompetently.
In his ruling, Filis wrote that the military police and prosecution did not properly interview all relevant witnesses, allowed tampering with key pieces of evidence and failed to explore evidence which might have led to a theory of murder.
“Alternative directions for the investigation which arose from the existing evidence, which were not previously checked and about which it was declared that they would not be checked” in the future, were too large to ignore, Filis wrote.
Essentially, Filis said the military police and the prosecution jumped on the suicide theory from the start and never looked back, despite various signs to the contrary and potential contradictions.
“There was a decision to appoint an investigative judge to check the reasons for her death... The probe by the military police was insufficient,” the Radcliffe’s family lawyer, Yafit Weisbuch, said in response to the decision and the upcoming hearing.
An IDF spokesman acknowledged Filis’s decision to appoint an investigative judge to further evaluate the background of Radcliffe’s death, though the IDF position has been that there is no evidence of another individual having been involved.