IDF Code of Conduct author: Azaria sentence sets 'wrong precedent'

The IDF Court of Appeals chose to uphold the conviction and 18-month sentence of Elor Azaria.

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July 31, 2017 17:39
2 minute read.
Former Israeli soldier Elor Azaria and his family await a ruling on the appeal of his manslaughter

Former Israeli soldier Elor Azaria and his family await a ruling on the appeal of his manslaughter conviction. (photo credit: REUTERS/DAN BALILTY)

 
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Prof. Asa Kasher, who wrote the IDF’s ethics code, came out against the 18-month sentence of Hebron shooter Elor Azaria on Monday, telling The Jerusalem Post it sets a precedent that “is totally wrong.”

Kasher, speaking to the Post by phone, said the sentence “is too light a punishment,” adding that the maximum punishment for manslaughter is 20 years.

“I think that 18 months, and there will be a reduction by a third for good behavior, making it a year, to come to a square and seeing a terrorist lying there totally ‘neutralized,’ and where commanders are calm... and just killing him with one shot to the head...it’s too light a punishment.”

Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter by a military court in January for killing incapacitated Palestinian attacker Abdel Fatah al-Sharif in Hebron on March 24, 2016.

In February 2017, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison and a 12-month probation thereafter, and demoted from sergeant to private.

According to Kasher, the judges did not address an important ethical aspect of the case – that as a medic, Azaria went against the values of both the IDF and the State of Israel.

“By military regulations, by being a medic, seeing someone lying on the road and been told there is no danger, he should have treated him. Those are our values, our norms. The basic values of Israel and the IDF is to protect basic human dignity, even my enemy whom I may kill sometimes out of self-defense. But when my enemy is lying fatally injured on the road, it is my duty to help him. And he didn’t.”

On Sunday, the IDF Military Court of Appeals upheld Azaria’s conviction and sentence. He is expected to begin serving his prison sentence on August 9, if he does not appeal the verdict or ask for a pardon from IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot or President Reuven Rivlin.

Azaria has already spent more than a year confined to a closed military base during his trial and appeal period.

He was released from the army after completing his mandatory service on July 20, but will still serve at least another nine months in a military prison and will be eligible for parole after serving half his sentence.

While the process for a presidential pardon would require recommendations from the IDF’s chief prosecutor, the head of the IDF’s Manpower Directorate, the chief of staff and the defense minister, a pardon from Eisenkot is simpler, and following the verdict of the appeal court Eisenkot hinted that he would “seriously consider” an appeal.

According to Kasher, while it’s difficult to compare Azaria’s case to other cases where IDF soldiers have been found guilty of manslaughter, “roughly speaking, if a soldier can get 10 years in jail for property damage but Azaria gets only one year in prison for killing someone, it sets a precedent for a punishment that is totally wrong.”

On Sunday, the judges rejected an appeal to stiffen the sentence by the prosecution who claimed it was insufficient in relation to the severity of the crime, saying that the sentence was “moderate.”

The judges, Kasher said, are trying to “make everyone happy” with the verdict by convicting Azaria but handing down a lenient sentence.

“I’ve read the whole verdict and reading what they said they are interested in calming down the story,” Kasher said, adding that “the judges are in so many words saying, ‘Let’s get this affair behind us.’”

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