(photo credit: GPO [file])
The Winograd Committee said Wednesday it will respond early next week to news reports that it had decided not to make personal recommendations in its final report or issue letters of caution to potential victims, and would therefore release the report in the next few weeks.
The statement came in response to a letter sent by Military Defender Col. Orna David and attorney Yossi Benkel, who demanded to know whether the media reports were true.
"We have also read the reports in the media about our 'decision,'" the committee replied in a letter that was also released to the media. "It is not customary for the committee to respond to statements that appear in the media which it itself does not issue, either to confirm or deny them. The committee will consider these reports at the beginning of next week. Immediately after it clarifies the matter, it will respond to your letter and to the general public."
In their letter to the committee, David and Benkel wrote: "We hereby inform you that if you do not tell us in a clear and unequivocal way within five days from today that you intend to honor the commitment you made to the High Court of Justice, we will be forced to return to the court and ask it to enforce that commitment."
The lawyers originally petitioned the court on August 1, demanding that the Winograd Committee issue cautionary letters to IDF personnel likely to be hurt by its findings and give them the chance to defend themselves and persuade the committee to change its mind before publishing the final report. They filed the petition after failing to extract a clear and unambivalent promise from the committee to do so.
During the High Court hearing, which was held on September 4, the committee promised the court that it would notify anyone who stood to be hurt by the report and explain the nature of the harm. It also promised to allow potential victims to see the evidence in their cases, hire lawyers and defend themselves before the committee and present evidence of their own.
Benkel and David were not satisfied with the committee's promise. They insisted that it acknowledge that an individual could be harmed not only by a specific recommendation to take punitive measures against him, but also by the committee's conclusions and even its presentation of the facts.
Fearing that the committee members might publish the final report without giving alleged victims the opportunity to defend themselves, Benkel and David asked the committee to prepare a list of potential victims as quickly as possible.
In their letter to the committee on Tuesday, the attorneys demanded to know why it had not yet presented the list.
"Forty days have gone by since the court ruling, long enough for the committee to have made, in its own language, a 'preliminary identification' of those who stood to be hurt," the lawyers wrote. "Therefore, we ask you to let us know when you intend to complete the 'preliminary identification' and send the appropriate notification to those soldiers and officers who are lawfully represented by the Military Defender."
In a related development, The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel warned the Winograd Committee that it would petition the High Court of Justice if the committee did not recommend punitive measures against those it found responsible for the failures of the Second Lebanon War.
Attorney Yitzhak Bam wrote: "I wish to know whether the committee intends to reach conclusions and make recommendations regarding those responsible for the failures of the war and whether there is any truth to the reports that the committee will refrain from doing so in order to spare itself the need to issue letters of caution and allow the potential victims the right to [defend themselves]. If it does not issue letters of caution, the Forum will petition the High Court."