oPt

OPT: Examination of allegations by the Israel Defense Forces

27 incidents were forwarded to the MPIU for criminal investigation; an additional 27 incidents are still being examined by the relevant operational entities; the examination of 45 incidents has been completed with the determination that further measures were not necessary.

Introduction

1. The IDF has expressed is committed to examine every allegation relating to prohibited actions carried out by its forces, in accordance with the army's commitment to act in conformity with the rules of international law and has reiterated this commitment on many occasions. This commitment exists even in circumstances in which the enemy intentionally and systematically violates these rules.

2. Already during the course of the Operation, in light of claims that began to be raised regarding IDF actions, the Military Advocate General recommended that documentation be gathered on "incidents of potential concern" that took place during the Operation, for use in conducting investigations of those incidents, as well as to counter claims made against Israel.

3. When the Operation ended, an integrated process was begun to examine all complaints and claims, whether made directly to the IDF and the Military Advocate General's Office, or published in the media and via reports of human rights organizations.

General Staff Investigations

4. Immediately following the Operation, the Chief of General Staff ordered the establishment of five General Staff inquiries to examine various aspects of Operation Cast Lead, in light of complaints and requests received by the IDF. The inquiries were led by officers holding the rank of colonel who were not directly involved in the relevant chain of command. The five inquiries dealt with the following subjects:

A. Claims relating to firing at and damaging facilities of UN agencies and international organizations - This inquiry focused on a list of specific incidents known to the IDF. Following the establishment of an investigative committee by the UN Secretary General, directed to examine damage to UN personnel and facilities during the Operation, and Israel's cooperation with the investigative committee, this list was enlarged to include various incidents that came within the committee's mandate. The findings made regarding this inquiry were presented before the committee during the course of its work.

B. Claims relating to firing at medical facilities, vehicles, and teams - This inquiry focused on a list of specific incidents known to the IDF, including incidents that appeared in reports of Physicians for Human Rights and of other NGO's.

C. Claims relating to incidents in which there were a large number of casualties among civilians not participating in hostilities - This inquiry, too, focused on specific incidents, where there were claims of significant casualties among civilians not involved in hostilities.

D. Use of weapons containing phosphorous - This inquiry was general in nature, focusing on an examination of the issue from an overall perspective, and did not investigate specific incidents.

E. Damage to infrastructure and destruction of buildings by ground forces - This inquiry also focused on the issue from a general perspective, and did not investigate specific incidents.

5. The first three inquiries, which focused on specific incidents, also examined systemic aspects of the issues the inquiries dealt with, with the objective of learning lessons from the concrete incidents.

6. As is customary in the IDF in such operational inquiries, the officers making the inquiries acted independently and were authorized to receive relevant material and to debrief all persons involved in the relevant incidents. They reviewed the complaints received by the IDF and state authorities relating to their inquiry, conducted interviews and collected relevant documents and material. It is noted that all military personnel summoned were required to cooperate with the officers conducting the inquiry, and that the inquiries received full cooperation. Given the nature of the inquiries, a soldier interviewed in this framework does not have the right to remain silent, as opposed to the practice in a criminal investigation. This aids in allowing inquiries to serve as an effective investigative tool.

7. In the framework of the first three of the inquiries listed above, some twenty-five specific incidents were examined. In some of the cases, it was found that there had been operational mistakes or mishaps in the course of IDF actions. In one case, of unauthorized firing at a UN convoy, a soldier was prosecuted in a disciplinary hearing for the offense of unlawful use of a weapon. In another case, senior officers holding the rank of colonel and lieutenant colonel were prosecuted in a disciplinary hearing for firing artillery in violation of military orders (despite the deviation from military orders, that incident did not result in casualties).

8. The results of the five inquires were presented to the Chief of General Staff, and forwarded to the Military Advocate General for study to determine if additional examination of the incidents was warranted, or if additional measures should be taken. Currently, an opinion is being completed relating to these incidents by the Military Advocate General. The findings of the inquiries and the opinion of the Military Advocate General regarding them will be forwarded to Israel's (civilian) Attorney General for his study and examination.

9. Based upon the findings of the inquires, significant measures are already being taken to prevent recurrence of such incidents. Among the measures is the formulation of revised procedures for carrying out actions against infrastructure via the use of certain means of warfare.

Other investigations

10. Based upon various complaints and requests which were brought to the attention of the IDF, almost one hundred specific incidents were cited by various persons and entities. Of these -

A. Fourteen incidents were forwarded immediately to the Military Police Investigation Unit (MPIU) which included allegations of looting, use of civilians as human shields, violent treatment of detainees, maltreatment of detainees, and an investigation that was opened following published reports relating to the seminar at the Yitzhak Rabin Preparatory Academy. Three investigations ended without any findings, because complainants refused to give testimony, although the MPIU made requests to them through persons representing them. One file was closed. One case led to the prosecution of a soldier for looting. That soldier was convicted and sentenced to seven and a half months imprisonment, a conditional sentence of seven and a half months, and demotion to the rank of private.

B. Some twenty cases had been examined within the framework of the General Staff inquiries, such that additional investigation of them was not warranted. In these cases, as noted, the Military Advocate General is presently completing his opinion summarizing his opinion as to their findings.

C. Some seventy-five incidents were forwarded to operational entities (Southern Command and the Air Force) for their initial investigations and analysis.

11. Of the incidents that were forwarded to the operational entities -

A. Criminal investigations were opened regarding thirteen incidents, nine of which dealt with especially grave claims of intentional attacks on civilians carrying white flags or of flechette shells being aimed at civilians. The Military Advocate General determined that, due to their severity, new inquires will not be made to examine these claims. Instead, the decision to open MPIU investigations was made based on the existing material, including initial inquiries carried out in these matters.

B. The handling of forty-five cases has ended, as the examination of the existing material relating to these incidents not having established a basis to support the suspicion that the forces acted unlawfully.

C. The other incidents (some ten incidents) remain with the operational entities for completion of the examination.

The Goldstone Report and investigations

12. The Goldstone Committee Report mentions thirty-six specific incidents. Many of the incidents included in the report were known to the IDF from published material, requests, and earlier reports. In effect, many of those incidents were forwarded some time ago for examination via the channels described above.

13. Of the incidents mentioned in the Goldstone Report, twelve were brought to the IDF's attention for the first time by the report. Most of them (ten) deal with damage to property. Two cases involved harm to civilians. These incidents which had not yet been examined were forwarded for investigation, in accordance with the investigation policy described above.

Summary and figures

14. To date, the status of the handling of all incidents in Operation Cast Lead that came to the IDF's attention is as follows: twenty-seven incidents were forwarded to the MPIU for criminal investigation. An additional twenty-seven incidents are still being examined by the relevant operational entities; In relation to forty-five incidents, the examination has been completed with the determination that further measures were not necessary.

15. MPIU criminal investigations are being conducted by twenty special investigative teams that were established for this purpose. The work of the teams is being supervised by the MPIU commander and is being closely accompanied by the Office of the Military Advocate for Operational Matters, which is charged with the handling of files of this kind. The first stage of each investigation often involves questioning of Palestinian complainants, who are summoned for this purpose to Erez Crossing. In most of the files, the questioning of the complainants was completed some time ago (to date, some twenty-five complainants have been questioned), and the ongoing investigations focus on questioning the commanders and the soldiers of the relevant units.