Commander, soldier convicted in shooting of Palestinian

Military court finds the two guilty in Ni'lin shooting incident.

Burbag 311 (photo credit: Ariel Schalit)
Burbag 311
(photo credit: Ariel Schalit)
An IDF battalion commander who ordered a soldier to fire a rubber bullet at point-blank range at a handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian was convicted of violating behavioral norms Thursday in a Tel Aviv military court.
The soldier who shot the Palestinian was also found guilty of unbecoming conduct and unlawful use of a weapon.
The shooting took place on July 7, 2008, on the outskirts of the village of Ni’ilin, near Ramallah, where Palestinian demonstrators have been holding regular demonstrations against the construction of the nearby security fence. In the incident, soldiers imposed a curfew and fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the protesters.
Lt.-Col. Omri Burbag, commander of Armored Battalion 71, was caught on video leading the blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinian to a military jeep, where the soldier was then seen raising his weapon and discharging a shot. The soldier claimed that Burbag had ordered him to fire, but the officer told investigators that all he had told the soldier to do was “shake his gun” to scare the detainee. The prisoner was wounded in his foot.
Burbag had initially been charged by Military Advocate- General Brig.-Gen.
Avichai Mandelblit with inappropriate military conduct, a lesser charge, which prompted human rights groups to petition the High Court of Justice.
Mandelblit added threats and behavior unbefitting a commander to the charge sheet, and he was convicted of these on Thursday.
On Thursday, the judges wrote in their decision that Burbag’s conduct constituted a serious deviation from IDF norms and values.
“This detracts from the standing of the IDF, its commanders and soldiers,” the judges wrote in their decision.
B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, which distributed the video of the shooting, welcomed the court’s ruling as “important, both as a measure of justice for the victim, as well as for the deterrent message it sends to soldiers and commanders.”