Five years have passed since the armored personnel carrier accident in the Golan Heights that claimed the life of Sergeant Major Assaf Waxman
On Monday, two of his commanders at the time, a colonel and a lieutenant-colonel, were convicted of negligence at a hearing held by the military appellate court in Tel Aviv's Rabin Base. The company commander was acquitted.
The accident occurred in November 2007, when an IDF
APC driven by Waxman during a training exercise in the Golan Heights, crashed. Waxman was killed and five other soldiers were injured. The soldier's four commanders were all accused of negligence.
commander was acquitted of negligence charges as part of a plea bargain and sentenced to two months of community service.
Assaf Waxman's parents (Photo: Moti Kimhi)
On Monday morning, the verdict on the three senior commanders was given.
The head of the IDF's 319th Armor Division at the GOC Northern Command, Colonel Shlomi Cohen and battalion Commander Lt.-Col (Res.) Asaf Rafeld were convicted.
Major Dudi Kelner, the then-company commander and the only one of the three who is still in service, was acquitted and the court criticized the military proceeding against him.
The Military Court judges harshly criticized the preparations – or lack thereof – made prior to the drill and the way the safety instructions were delivered to the reservists during that exercise. They also mentioned the battalion officers' testimonies who said that it is the battalion norm not to fasten seatbelts during APC rides.
They also said that it was the regular service commanders' responsibility to check that the reservist
commanders have the updated security instructions.
Regarding Colonel Cohen, the judges wrote that the gap between what was done and what should have been done was "Like the distance from east to west... This is a failure to implement safety instructions," they noted.
With relation to the battalion
commander, the judges stated: "He was negligent in fulfilling his duty and his position. The battalion commander sent two company commanders to survey the drill procedure files without knowing where they were or having previous experience in doing so.
"He did not take any measures to comprehensively learn the safety instructions and had he done so, he would have known that the instructions are that it is obligatory to fasten seatbelts while driving.
The battalion commander did nothing to clarify the safety instruction details or relaying them to the rest of the commanders and admitted to not having read them. He turned a blind eye," the verdict said.
The military court also harshly criticized the military proceedings for not indicting the company commander who checked the steep route on which the accident occurred.
Outside the courtroom at the end of the deliberations, the dead soldier's parents Leon and Rachel blamed the company commander Dudi Kelner.
"We think you are to blame for the death of our son. If your son would come to you and tell you that he hasn't driven an APC for nine years and he is not competent enough to do so – would you let him drive?" they asked.
Assaf's father, Leon, criticized then-GOC Northern Command Chief Major-General Gadi Eisenkot
for his part, since he backed the accused during the legal proceedings: "I expect that Eisenkot conduct himself as a major-general and not as a labor union head.
"Even if the company commander was convicted, I don't feel victorious or happy because my son will never come back to life. The losers here and those who should be worried are the country's citizens, since Eisenkot is the intended deputy chief-of-staff."
Assaf's mother, Rachel added: "This wasn't a war, it was a drill and the acquitted company commander should have given up on Assaf's APV. There is no reason why a reservist should come back home in shrouds. If this was war, I would have gotten there by APV."
Attorney Aharon Klein, who represented the convicted battalion commander said: "The prosecutor should dig himself a big hole after conducting a three and a half year-long case. All of the accused were acquitted today for causing death out of negligence and two were acquitted for a technical offense of negligence.
Attorney Yehuda Greenhouse, who represented Kelner said, "his acquittal was merited and self evident and we are sorry for the delay of justice
which took five years to reach this outcome."
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