Israel military court jails soldiers for abusing Palestinian man

Rights groups accuse Israeli military of investigating only a fraction of cases involving crimes against Palestinians.

IIsraeli soldiers shoot rubber bullets at Palestinians
Israeli soldiers shoot rubber-tipped steel bullets at Palestinian protesters in Hebron in the occupied West Bank in May 2023 [File: Mussa Issa Qawasma/Reuters]

An Israeli military court has sentenced three Israeli soldiers to short prison terms for abusing a Palestinian man and obstructing an investigation into the incident, a rare punishment by the military against members of its own forces.

With hundreds of cases of Palestinian people killed by Israeli forces neither investigated nor punished, human rights organisations regularly accuse Israel of initiating criminal proceedings for only a fraction of the crimes allegedly committed by Israeli soldiers against Palestinians.

The Israeli army said in a statement on Wednesday that the soldiers were convicted of abuse and a third was additionally convicted of exceeding his authority and endangering a man’s life or health.

The indictments said the three soldiers, as well as a fourth, took the Palestinian man in a military four-wheel drive and drove to an unidentified “distant location”. During the drive and afterwards, “violence was used against the victim” and he was left in a remote location, the statement said.

The soldiers, whose identities were withheld, then “hid the details of the incident from their commanders in an attempt to prevent [military officials] from opening an investigation and coordinated their versions regarding the details of the incident”, the statement said.

Two of the soldiers were sentenced to 60 days in prison for abuse, while the third was sentenced to 40 days for exceeding his authority and endangering the Palestinian man’s life or health. All were demoted and given additional suspended sentences for obstructing court proceedings, the statement said.

A fourth soldier, indicted for assault, abuse under aggravated circumstances, threats and additional offences, is still pending trial.

According to Israeli military data obtained by the human rights group Yesh Din, in the five years between 2017 and 2021, the military received 1,260 cases of alleged offences by Israeli soldiers against Palestinians, including 409 cases involving the killing of Palestinian people.

The Israeli military opened just 248 criminal investigations into instances of possible misconduct in response to those complaints – 21.4 percent of the total, Yesh Din said. Of the number investigated, just 11 cases during that five-year period had yielded indictments.

The Israeli military contended there had been more charges filed against soldiers than Yesh Din reported.

Source: News Agencies