Pro-Palestinian rights organization announced it will stop making official complaints over IDF soldiers’ conduct against Palestinian civilians to the Military Advocate General Corps, saying that after 25 years of reporting alleged abuse, it concluded the MAG corps was merely a ‘whitewashing mechanism.’
By AFP, AP
Israeli rights group B’Tselem announced Wednesday it was giving up taking complaints over soldier conduct to the IDF, after years of going through official channels brought few prosecutions.
B’Tselem, a left-wing group that campaigns against Israel’s presence in the West Bank, said it had been providing information to the Military Advocate General Corps about alleged abuses for 25 years, but had concluded it was increasingly a “whitewash mechanism” and a “mere semblance of justice.”
As such, “continuing to file complaints to the military law enforcement system does more harm than good,” it said in a new report entitled ‘The Occupation’s Fig Leaf.’
Hagai El-Ad, the group’s executive director, said B’Tselem would stop cooperating with a system it cannot trust.
“The system’s real function is cover-ups,” he said. He said once the group reached that “painful conclusion … we found it morally unacceptable for us to continue working in the same way.”
The Military Advocate General supervises the rule of law in the IDF, including internal disciplinary procedures.
The IDF defines MAG’s role as to “instill the general principles of law and the values of justice in the Israel Defense Forces.”
But B’Tselem said IDF investigations were slow, inefficient and rarely led to convictions.
Its 80-page report cited eight recent cases, including four in which Palestinians were killed, that it said showed sub-standard military investigations.
In the past five years, just three percent of criminal investigations launched by the military police into alleged offences by IDF soldiers against Palestinians led to indictments, according to NGO Yesh Din.
B’Tselem said that since the late 1980s, it has demanded investigations in hundreds of cases, including of Israeli soldiers suspected of killing, injuring, beating or using Palestinians as human shields or damaging their property.
Since the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000, B’Tselem has called for investigations in 739 cases, the group said.
“An analysis of the responses B’Tselem received as to how the military law enforcement system handled these 739 cases shows that in a quarter (182) no investigation was ever launched, in nearly half (343), the investigation was closed with no further action, and only in very rare instances (25), were charges brought against the implicated soldiers. Another thirteen cases were referred for disciplinary action. A total of 132 cases are still at various processing stages, and the MAG Corps was unable to locate 44 others.
“The way in which the military law enforcement system functions precludes it from the very outset from achieving justice for the victims,” B’Tselem said.
“There is no longer any point in pursuing justice and defending human rights by working with a system whose real function is measured by its ability to continue to successfully cover up unlawful acts and protect perpetrators.”
B’Tselem said investigations have been slow and perfunctory and that soldiers’ accounts are routinely accepted at face value, without supporting evidence.
The group was vague about what alternatives Palestinians now have, although El-Ad said it would still help Palestinians seek justice through other means.
“We will continue to investigate cases, interview witnesses, trying to collect data to the best of our professional ability and to publish that information to the public,” he said.
“Whether that is going to be successful or not, time will tell,” he added.
The IDF slammed the report, saying it was “biased and does not reflect on reality.”
“The IDF is committed to the rule of the law and its legal system acts with utmost professionalism and thoroughness,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Office said in a statement.
“Over the past few years, several state commissions thoroughly examined the law enforcement system in the IDF and determined that the investigation mechanisms in the IDF, and their way of operations, are in line with the international law,” the statement went on to say.
“The decisions of the military system are under external scrutiny, including that of the attorney general and the Supreme Court, and have received backing and approval throughout the years.
“The IDF thoroughly checks and investigates any and all claims of misconduct including those from B’Tselem and many other organizations, and will continue to act transparently in order to arrive at the truth,” it stated.
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