The High Court of Justice on Monday rejected IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi’s expulsion of an IDF official for his involvement as the overall commander of police investigations relating to the suicide of soldier Cpl. Niv Lubaton in 2019.
Until his suicide, Lubaton had a record as an exemplary soldier in the IDF’s Givati Brigade.
In 2019, he was recruited by the Military Police to serve as an informant about drug dealing at the training base he was serving in at the time – Bislah in southern Israel.
Although Lubaton initially agreed, shortly after meeting with the IDF police who were to become his handlers, he called them back and said that he couldn’t serve as an informant, specifically warning that the pressure could lead him to harm himself.
A short time later, Lubaton went missing from his base and he was later found dead from an apparent suicide.
Charges were brought against the IDF police directly involved.
But Kohavi also decided to expel their commander, saying he had overall responsibility for what those under him were doing and that he knew enough of the specifics that he should have urged restraint.
IDF commander, however, appealed to a district court in its administrative capacity under a 2010 law that specifically gave it power to protect IDF career-track officers from arbitrary treatment.
That court found that officers in similar situations had not been expelled. It essentially said that Kohavi was unfairly scapegoating the commander to clear himself and the broader army of not paying enough attention to Military Police informant-recruiting tactics.
Kohavi appealed to the High Court, which offered him various compromises all of which he rejected.
The IDF chief said he should have sole discretion over disciplinary measures for his officers and that he knew what the IDF commander in question was supposed to do better than the judges.
The High Court acknowledged that in most cases, courts should not intervene with an IDF decision regarding its own personnel.
However, the justices said that in this case, Kohavi’s expulsion was so far off from how other similarly situated officers had been treated that it could not stand.
On a parallel issue, the justices upheld Kohavi and the IDF Military Advocate-General’s decision regarding what charges to bring against the IDF police directly involved with Lubaton.
Lubaton's parents had appealed for more severe charges to be brought.