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Ombudsman Report

Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yitzhak Brick Photo: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry
Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yitzhak Brick Photo: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry
 
 

IDF ombudsman report reveals abuse of power among commanders

Among the 7,158 complaints lodged - a commander forcing recruits to drink water till they got sick and an NCO pouring bleach over soldier's head.

Yaron Druckman, Yoav Zitun
Published: 05.22.14, 00:59 / Israel News

A career soldier who poured bleach on another soldier's head, an officer who checked his soldiers' body wastes, a commander who forced soldiers to drink until they vomitted and an army doctor who told a recruit to "commit suicide". These are just a few of the thousands of complaints made to IDF Complaints Commissioner, Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yitzhak Brick.

 

 

Last year, 7,158 complaints were received at the IDF ombudsman's office, compared to 6,861 in 2012. 58.3 percent of the complaints filed in 2013 were found justified. Reservists filed 940 complaints and career soldiers 857. Potential conscripts filed 995 complaints.

 

Thirty-six percent of the complaints were about superior-subordinate relationship, 14 percent were concerning medical affairs, six percent complaints dealt with service conditions and four percent about placements and placement limitations. 

 

Sarcastic remarks, soda and bleach

One soldier made a complaint against an NCO (non-commissioned officer) who allegedly poured bleach on her head, resulting in her hospitalization.

 

An investigation of the incident found that the NCO and his commander made some sarcastic remarks at the female soldiers in the office - which they claimed were in good nature. At some point, an argument between the soldier and NCO about sitting arrangements in the office escalated into gravely offensive comments made by the NCO at the soldier.

 

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The soldier expressed her objection to the NCO's remarks, and threw a rubber stamp at his head. Instead of calming the situation, the NCO's commander added to the already tense atmosphere by telling the NCO that he "would have retaliated."

 

The NCO started chasing after the soldier with a soda bottle and at some point switched the soda with a bottle of bleach. The attempt of another soldier to stop him didn't help and the enraged NCO continued his chase. After he caught the soldier, he poured the content of the bleach bottle on top of her head and stopped only after the soldier cried out that her eyes were burning and she was having trouble breathing.

 

The soldier was rushed to the hospital for medical treatment was on an extended sick leave following the incident.

 

Despite the fact NCO expressed regret for his actions, his commander decided to cancelled his leave for officer course. The NCO also faced martial court for assault, causing bodily harm, and misconduct.

 

The commissioner stated that the NCO's behavior was not normative behavior and was inconsistent with the basic values of human dignity the IDF upholds.

 

Body wastes check

Another complaint was made after a company's commander at a training base started checking soldiers' body waste after 40 of them complained that they were suffering from bowel disease on the same week as their final drill.

 

The complaints commissioner noted that there was a serious flaw in the fact the commander needed to check his soldiers' excrement to verify the credibility of their claims. He added that the commander should have relied on his soldiers' complaints or referred them to a medical professional with the ability and authority to determine the soldiers' medical condition.

 

The commissioner said that the commanders' lack of trust in their soldiers, whatever the reason, doesn't justify violating their privacy, as they did at the training base. Brick harshly criticized the training base commander for his conduct.

 

Drink until you vomit

In another complaint, a boot camp commander had the rookies drink water continuously from at least three canteens and at unreasonable intervals. The commander also prevented the rookies from relieving themselves and would not retract his orders until several soldiers started to vomit.

 

The unit's commander said that an investigation he conducted found that the rookies, who were required to drink water from their canteens at specified times, hadn't done so, therefore they were told to drink water from three canteens continuously. In light of the large amount of water they were forced to drink at once, some of them vomitted because their bodies couldn't handle it.

 

The commissioner said he views this incident as an unusual, serious and extreme flaw of morality and leadership.

 

'You are like the Nazis'

An NCO complained that a lieutenant colonel compared the way she performed her duty to the way the Nazis operated. The comments were made after the NCO told the lieutenant colonel that he had to wait until someone arrived to accompany him to a meeting inside her unit.

 

The officer said that in retrospect he realized that the way he chose to express his frustration from the NCO's guidance was wrong and showed a poor choice of words. He expressed his regret that the soldier was offended by his comments and added that he didn't mean to hurt her feelings.

 

Doctor to a recruit: Commit suicide

About 1,000 complaints were made relating to medical issues. One of them was made by a mother of a potential conscript, who claimed that her son asked the doctor at the medical board in the induction center what would happen if he stopped taking his medication for a medical condition he has been suffering from for many years and the doctor responded: "You are welcome to commit suicide".

 

The doctor claimed she used the term "suicide" in order to emphasize the dangerous repercussions of not taking the medication. The commissioner's inquiry found that there was no need to use this term at all under the given circumstances and that the doctor could have stressed the grave repercussions of not taking the medication in a much more appropriate way.

 

Safety hazards

Following many complaints, the commissioner examined the conditions in IDF bases in the Golan Heights. He found living quarters unsuitable for sleeping, broken floors, perforated walls, leaking and dilapidated roofs and severe safety hazards such as exposed and broken electric sockets, vandalism, displaced doors, disregard for military equipment and more.

 

The commissioner also discovered neglected sanitation facilities, foul-smelling toilet facilities, overflowing septic tanks without proper drainage, lack of lavatory seats, lack of hot water, fungus and mold, broken taps and more. He added that many of the bases looked abandoned with garbage on the ground, broken telephone poles and cracked fences allowing stray animals to wander in the base's area and cows to graze near the soldiers' quarters. In addition, neglected commemoration rooms were found.

 

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