25 February 2010
Israeli Army Closes Military Investigations into Two Human Shields Cases from the War on Gaza without Informing the Victims
Adalah and Al Mezan: “Closing the military investigations in this manner demonstrates contempt for the victims and their rights. These cases demand an impartial, independent criminal investigation. ”
On 24 February 2010, Israeli military radio announced that the Military Advocate General (MAG) had closed military investigations into complaints about the Israeli army's use of unarmed Palestinian civilians as human shields during the Israeli war on Gaza (“Operation Cast Lead”) in December 2008-January 2009. The announcement was made on the radio's news programs and website in Hebrew. The complaints were filed on behalf of Mr. Abbas Halaweh by Adalah and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and on behalf of Mr. Mahmoud Al-Ajrami by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. The report stated that the closure of the cases followed investigations conducted by the Israeli army that determined that there was “no basis to the complaints.”
Adalah Attorney Fatmeh El-‘Ajou then sent an urgent letter to the MAG and the Israeli Attorney General, arguing that the announcement of the closure of the investigations in the media before informing the victims and their representatives is inappropriate and unacceptable. She also argued that it demonstrates contempt for the victims and their rights, and raises grave doubts over the motives behind the closure of the investigations. Adalah demanded to be informed of the reasons for the closure of the investigations and the army's investigation materials.
Adalah further demanded information on the progress of investigations into the rest of the complaints it has filed, together with human rights organizations Al Mezan in Gaza and Al Haq in the West Bank, into other suspected war crimes committed by the Israeli army during the war on Gaza. These complaints concern cases of killings, injuries, prevention of medical treatment, and home demolitions, and human shields. While the organizations demanded impartial, independent criminal investigations into the incidents, the Israeli army only opened internal military probes and investigations that do not meet the basic standards of international law.
The use of unarmed civilians as human shields and forcing them to take part in combat operations is a war crime under international humanitarian law. In 2005, the Israeli Supreme Court banned the use of human shields in military operations in a case filed by Adalah and seven other human rights organizations. Adalah and Al Mezan filed a number of joint complaints in which they demanded criminal investigations into Israeli military commanders and soldiers responsible for using Palestinian civilians as human shields and for other violations of international law.
Adalah and Al Mezan will study the Israeli army's materials related to these cases, if they are disclosed. The organizations reject the conclusion that the complaints are baseless, because the information and evidence indicates that there is no doubt that these two victims were used as human shields during the war. Furthermore, the army's use of Palestinian civilians as human shields was also borne out by the UN Fact-Finding Mission and other human rights organizations. The way in which the investigations were carried out and closed deepens concerns among Palestinian human rights organizations that Israel is not serious about investigating documented allegations of grave breaches of international law by its military forces during the war.