Israeli soldier's minimal sentence for manslaughter emblematic of impunity enjoyed by Israeli security forces

Elor Azaria convicted of manslaughter in killing of Palestinian; Adalah General Director Hassan Jabareen: Case exceptional in its conviction but unexceptional in its minimal sentence.

An Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter in the killing of a Palestinian man was sentenced today (Tuesday, 21 February 2017) to 18 months in prison, a minimal sentence that Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel says reflects the impunity enjoyed by Israeli security personnel accused of crimes against Palestinians.


Israeli army medic Sgt. Elor Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter by Tel Aviv Military Court's three-judge panel on 4 January 2017 in the killing of Palestinian Abd Fatah al-Sharif in the West Bank city of Hebron in March 2016. Azaria opened fire and killed al-Sharif as he was lying on the ground after he had already been shot during an alleged attempt to stab an Israeli soldier.


In addition to 18 months of prison time, Azaria was also sentenced to one year of probation and a demotion in rank to private.


Adalah General Director Hassan Jabareen said in response to the sentencing: "This case was exceptional in its indictment as Israel usually doesn't indict its soldiers even when evidence very clearly indicates a criminal offence. This case was, however, unexceptional in its minimal sentence, which reflects the widespread impunity enjoyed by Israeli security personnel accused – or even convicted in a court of law – of crimes against Palestinians. Azaria's light sentence of 18 months is an expression of disregard for the value of Palestinian life and likewise fails to serve as a deterrent."


The Israeli military and civilian justice systems have routinely turned a blind eye to the killings of Palestinian civilians by soldiers and police officers. The Azaria conviction was, therefore, the exception to the rule and stands unique in the long history of impunity enjoyed by Israeli armed forces.


Barring a limited number of cases, the Israeli military justice system routinely fails to sentence soldiers commensurate with the gravity of the offences with which they have been convicted.


(Video grab courtesy of B’tselem)