Soldiers in Court 311.
(photo credit: Channel 10)
In what has turned into one of the most high-profile criminal cases from Operation Cast Lead, two former soldiers from the Givati Brigade, convicted of ordering a Palestinian boy to open a potentially dangerous package, received suspended three-month jail sentences on Sunday despite the Military Advocate General’s request that they be put behind bars.
The two, identified only as “St.-Sgt. A” and “St.-Sgt H,” have already completed their mandatory military service.
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They were serving in the Givati Reconnaissance Battalion during Cast Lead. The court also ordered them demoted one rank.
The former soldiers were found guilty last month of exceeding their authority by ordering a nine-year-old boy to open bags they suspected might be booby-trapped near his home in Gaza City’s Tel al-Hawa neighborhood. Their crime fell under the legal classification of “use of a human shield,” although in this case it was not a scenario in which troops sent noncombatants into rooms or buildings they suspected were boobytrapped or being used by gunmen.
Military prosecutors had requested that the court impose lengthy prison sentences and demote them to the rank of private for violating the boy’s human rights and the IDF’s code of “purity of arms.” The charges carried a maximum penalty of three years in prison.
The two sergeants came under investigation before the UN’s Goldstone
Report was released in September 2009. The IDF probe was opened based on
information in a report compiled by a special UN representative
appointed to investigate matters involving children and armed conflict,
and following a specific complaint filed by the Israeli branch of
Defense for Children International.
The court explained its decision by referring to the soldiers’ clean
record and the fact that the investigation had not been able to prove
that they had intended to harm the Palestinian boy.
The court also took into consideration the complicated circumstances in which the soldiers had been placed by their commanders.
“By harming another person, the defendants also harmed the moral values
that they are committed to,” the judges wrote in their ruling, adding
however that they could not ignore “the merits the soldiers had earned
throughout their service and their contribution to the security of the
State of Israel.”