B'Tselem: IDF prosecutors whitewashing Protective Edge crimes
Watchdog says there is a conflict of interests when asking the Military Advocate General to investigate suspected crimes relating to orders he personally approved, adding probes were only launched to avoid the jurisdiction of the ICC; IDF: Report is 'extremely biased and unprofessional.'
The report, entitled "Whitewashing Procedure: Investigating Alleged Incidents of Protective Edge," criticizes Israeli policies implemented during the conflict, including attack policies on inhabited houses, “indiscriminate” artillery fire on populated areas and the policy of “deliberately” destroying homes and agricultural areas.
The report was particularly critical of Israel for refusing to allow external investigations into accusations that IDF forces committed war crimes.
B’Tselem claimed that there is an inherent conflict of interests when asking the Military Advocate General (MAG) to investigate the accusations.
"In cases in which suspected breaches of law relate to orders he personally approved, the MAG would have to order an investigation against himself, or his subordinates," the report said.
While noting that the IDF does acknowledge the importance of outside organizations that monitor its actions, Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Sharon Afek criticized the report, calling it "extremely biased and unprofessional."
“The report ignores a significant amount of information and data published by Israel, or misrepresents it," Brig. Gen. Afek said. "It also indicates a severe lack of understanding of the fighting reality in Gaza and the implementation of the laws of war in this reality.
“For instance, the report ignored the fact that airstrikes that caused the death of Palestinian civilians, tragic as they were, were a rarity. Most of the IDF airstrikes—over 6,000—did not hurt civilians. It would be more fitting for B’Tselem to attempt to infer IDF operational policy from the general context, rather than from the anomalies.”
Operation Protective Edge was launched on July 7, 2014, following weeks of incessant rocket fire from Gaza. Seventy-two were killed on the Israel side, including 67 soldiers. Some 2,200 Palestinians also died during the conflict, with B'Tselem claiming 63 percent of them did not take direct part in hostilities.
Israel, meanwhile, claims that of 45 percent of the deceased Palestinians who were positively identified, 36 percent were militants.
The B’Tselem report follows closely on the heels of the MAG’s August update on its ongoing investigation, titled "Exceptional Incidents that Allegedly Occurred During Operation ‘Protective Edge.’"
This latest update indicated that military prosecutors had closed over a dozen indictments due to lack of criminal evidence but opened criminal investigations into six other potential cases. Before that update, the MAG reported that out of 360 complaints received, 24 criminal investigations were launched and only one case resulted in three separate indictments for the crime of looting.
In its conclusion, the report claims the IDF launched investigations of alleged violations of international laws of war only to avoid the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague. Even though Israel is not a party to the ICC, the Palestinians filed for “retroactive jurisdiction” which could entitle the court to jurisdiction on Operation Protective Edge if the Hague deems Israel “unwilling or unable” to prosecute its own alleged war crimes.
Michael Bachner contributed to this report.
Story reprinted with permission from the Tazpit Press Service (TPS)