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21/01/2015

Crimes de guerre de l'armée israélienne lors de l'attaque de Gaza en été 2014 : Enquête lancée

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Israeli Government Watchdog Investigates Military's Conduct in ...

www.nytimes.com/2015/01/.../israel-hamas-gaza-strip-war-investigation.html

By ISABEL KERSHNERJAN. 20, 2015
 
 

JERUSALEM — Israel’s government watchdog, the state comptroller, said on Tuesday that he had opened an investigation into decisions made by military and political leaders during last summer’s 50-day war with the Hamas militant group in Gaza.

The announcement was Israel’s latest effort to head off an International Criminal Court inquiry into its conduct during the war, and came days after prosecutors at the court opened a preliminary examination of possible war crimes committed in the Palestinian territories, the first formal step that could lead to charges against Israelis.

A United Nations Human Rights Council commission of inquiry into Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip is underway. The state comptroller’s announcement also came as Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, which opposes Israeli occupation of the territories captured in 1967, published a report criticizing what it said were failures of the Israeli military’s system for warning Gaza’s citizens of impending strikes during the fighting last summer. It also faulted the military for a lack of safe evacuation routes and for strikes against rescue teams.

The International Criminal Court generally takes on only cases concerning countries that are unwilling or unable to investigate their own actions. In a statement, the Israeli state comptroller, Joseph Haim Shapira, highlighted this point as what was apparently a motivating factor in beginning his inquiry.

“According to principles of international law,” the statement said, “when a state exercises its authority to objectively investigate accusations regarding violations of the laws of armed conflict, this will preclude examination of said accusations by external international tribunals (such as the International Criminal Court in The Hague).”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel also pressed the point in an angry response to the Hague inquiry over the weekend.

“It’s absurd for the I.C.C. to go after Israel, which upholds the highest standards of international law,” he said. “Our actions are subject to the constant and careful review of Israel’s world-renowned and utterly independent legal system.”

In what many saw as a swift effort to pre-empt an investigation, the Israeli military announced in September, only two weeks after a cease-fire took effect in Gaza, that dozens of instances of possible misconduct were under preliminary review by army fact-finding teams and that criminal investigations had been opened into five cases. These were mostly highly publicized episodes, like the killing of four boys on a Gaza beach, which had prompted international critics to accuse Israel of using excessive firepower.

In early December, the military announced criminal investigations of its own actions in eight additional episodes and provided detailed justifications for seven other operations that had prompted complaints from human rights groups.

Critics, including Israeli human rights groups, say experience has shown that the Israeli military cannot conduct a credible prosecution of itself, even though the military advocate general operates outside the normal chain of command. In addition, the military does not examine policies, only specific events, the critics say.

Apparently in response, Mr. Shapira said his investigation would also focus on the “examination and investigational procedures” within the military and would be based on decisions of Israel’s Supreme Court as well as previous commissions of inquiry, including the Turkel Commission, which examined Israel’s mechanisms for investigating claims of violations of international law regarding armed conflict.

Mr. Shapira is to be aided by three experts: Michael Newton, an expert on international law and warfare at Vanderbilt University in Nashville; Moshe Halbertal, an expert in Jewish philosophy who helped draft the Israeli military’s code of ethics; and Miguel Deutch, a law professor at Tel Aviv University who served on the Turkel Commission.

Domestically, reports by the comptroller, who is elected in a secret ballot by legislators and answers to Parliament, usually carry more moral weight than practical consequences in Israel. In 2012, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss issued a report harshly criticizing Mr. Netanyahu over his handling of a commando raid on a Turkish ship trying to challenge Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza in 2010.

But a report bolstering Israel’s reputation as a country that investigates itself could help ward off prosecution in The Hague.

“Under the principle of complementarity, the court would have no jurisdiction over Israel if Israel chooses to investigate and prosecute on its own,” Mark Ellis, executive director of the London-based International Bar Association, said in a recent interview. “If you embrace that principle, by investigating and if need be prosecuting your own people, then the court simply has no jurisdiction.”

The report published on Tuesday by the physicians group was based in part on the testimony of 68 people injured during the war, interviewed in Gaza and in hospitals in the West Bank, Israel and Jordan. It was researched and written by eight international medical experts who were given access to Gaza by Israel and were accompanied by three Palestinian human rights groups.

More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the fighting, most of them said to be civilians; more than 70 were killed on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers.

Although Israel has expressed pride over its early-warning mechanisms, which include phone calls to residents of houses about to be bombed and fliers and nonexplosive missiles signaling an impending attack, the report concluded that they were inefficient. Only five of the 68 interviewees said they had received warnings. Those who did said no safe escape routes had been provided. Ten reported having been injured in a secondary strike.

The Israeli military questioned the credibility of the physicians’ report, saying it was “based on one-sided and incorrect data assumed from biased sources and portrays an incomplete and inaccurate picture.”

“The report seems to neglect the overarching context of the heavy fighting that occurred on the ground throughout the operation and the significant challenges Hamas posed to the Israel Defense Forces in light of their lack of respect to and abuse of international law,” the military added.

Amnesty International accused Israel of war crimes in a report published in November, saying its military showed “callous indifference” to civilians in Gaza.

Jodi Rudoren contributed reporting. 

 

RELATED COVERAGE

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