Attorney-general testifies before Turkel Commission

Weinstein testifies before flotilla raid commission, says Israel acts in manner unparalleled in world while facing complex security challenges.

Weinstein 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Weinstein 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein testified on Sunday before the Turkel Commission for examining the May 2010 Free Gaza flotilla incident.
In his testimony, Weinstein presented the committee members with an overview of the Israeli investigation process, stressing its compliance with international law.
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“Already in the Declaration of Independence, Israel pledged its loyalty to the principles of the United Nations treaties. Since that day to this, Israel acts on all levels to respect the international law, even in the face of complex security challenges and murderous terrorist attacks it has been coping with throughout its existence, in a manner unparalleled in the world,” said Weinstein.
“Israel’s commitment to the laws of war is also expressed in its commitment to conduct investigations regarding claims that it broke them. The duty to investigate such claims is derived from the founding principles of both the Israeli justice system and the International law,” said Weinstein.
“My position is that the investigation process practiced in Israel regarding complaints raised over violation of the laws of war, is in compliance with Israel’s commitments to the rules of international law.”
Weinstein supported Military Advocate- General Avichai Mandelblit’s testimony before the committee in August and his presentation before the committee in December in which he outlined the legal and practical difficulties inherent in conducting an investigation into complaints of war crimes by Israeli soldiers and officers.
“Investigations into events that took place in the heat of the battle present difficult challenges to military police investigators. For example, the place of the event is often in hostile territory, the battle itself harms evidence; there is difficulty in finding local witnesses to testify and the chaos of battle often impairs or distorts combatants’ memories,” said Weinstein.
Weinstein said that the time it took for the IDF to investigate itself in the flotilla incident was similar to the time it took other countries to investigate complaints of similar scope and variety, but stressed that the investigatory processes should be further shortened.
He also stressed that even in cases where the military advocate-general took charge of the investigation, the advocate-general worked under the authority of the attorney-general himself, as head of the general prosecution, whose decisions in turn are supervised by the High Court of Justice.
“As the person in charge of the legal counsel system, I plan to continue making sure that the State of Israel and its defense forces can continue to battle its enemies who aim to destroy the state, but that they do so in accordance with the moral values that characterize the state and the international laws that it is obligated to,” Weinstein said.
“I am aware that this combination is no simple feat, but believe that it sums up our existence as a Jewish and democratic country and as a law-abiding state, and therefore we must safeguard it with all our might,” said Weinstein.
Weinstein was the first to testify before the commission in its second session, after it published an interim report in January.
The interim report for the most part exonerated Israel of wrongdoing, with committee members agreeing that both the naval blockade and the closure of the overland crossings after Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip had been legal.
The commission was established in accordance with a government decision handed down on June 14, 2010.
The decision was made in response to worldwide demands for an international investigation into the May 31 incident, in which nine Turkish passengers were killed and dozens wounded, and nine Israeli soldiers were also wounded.