IDF dismisses human rights group report

Yesh Din slams soldier conviction rate; army: only 10 of 132 defendants acquitted; many complaints false.

checkpoint nablus 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolomski)
checkpoint nablus 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolomski)
The IDF on Wednesday dismissed a report from Yesh Din-Volunteers for Human Rights that claimed that the army, by and large, fails to prosecute soldiers who allegedly commit crimes against Palestinian civilians. "In 2008 alone," the IDF said in a statement, "170 Military Police investigations were initiated... and since October 2007, 30 indictments were filed against 39 defendants." The decision to open an investigation, the statement said, "is based on the circumstances of the incident and the existing evidence. Every case is examined in itself, without taking into consideration statistical scales and quotas. One must not infer from a statistical analysis... and draw conclusions regarding the IDF's treatment of unacceptable behavior on the part of soldiers." It was "difficult" to conduct investigations since Palestinians often chose not to file complaints or, if they did press charges, often retracted their complaints, the statement continued. Often, the army said, the allegations turned out to be false. The army slammed Yesh Din for publishing its report without first allowing the army sufficient time to respond to the allegations. "The IDF Spokesman laments the fact that Yesh Din does not uphold the basic ethical and professional rule, according to which a criticized institution is given ample time to examine the allegations raised in a report." Released earlier Wednesday, the Yesh Din report said that only four soldiers were convicted in cases dealing with the death of Palestinian civilians throughout the second intifada. Titled "Exceptions," the report outlines for the first time the results of the legal proceedings in each of the 78 incidents following which soldiers stood trial for criminal offenses against Palestinians or their property from the beginning of the second intifada in late 2000 until the end of 2007. In the report, Yesh Din argued that the "exceptions" were actually those cases in which soldiers and officers who allegedly commited crimes against Palestinian civilians were investigated and prosecuted. Even more exceptional, the group claimed, were the cases in which heavy sentences were imposed. The report, which is approximately 100 pages long, is based on empirical data, indictments and rulings given to Yesh Din by the IDF. From 1,246 investigation files opened by the Military Police Criminal Investigations Department from the start of the second intifada until the end of 2007, 78 (6%) led to indictments against one or more soldiers. Sentences given to convicted soldiers were far from the maximums permitted by law. In the report, Yesh Din showed that soldiers convicted of looting - where the maximum sentence is 10 years imprisonment - were sentenced to between 40 days and six months. Four soldiers who were convicted of abuse under aggravated circumstances - for which the maximum sentence is seven years - were never sentenced to more than six months. "A soldier who chooses to beat a prisoner or shoot an unarmed civilian without cause knows that the chance that he will stand trial or undergo investigation is minimal," said Lior Yavne, research director for Yesh Din and the report's author. "The report illustrates how the IDF abandons the population in the occupied territories to the whims of its soldiers," he said. In its response, the army cited the Yesh Din report, which said that only four soldiers of 132 indicted had been acquitted, while legal proceedings against 10 were still under way. This, the army said, "testifies to the efficiency and professionalism of the system."