On 29 January 2010, The state of Israel released a 46-page Paper, Gaza Operation Investigations: An Update, which describes Israel’s procedures for the investigations of allegations of violations of the Law of Armed Conflict. The Paper focuses on investigations, legal proceedings and lessons learned, in relation to the actions of the IDF in the course of the Gaza Operation from 27 December 2008 through 18 January 2009.
This paper supplements and updates a paper released on July 2009, The Operation in Gaza: Factual and Legal Aspects, which addresses a range of factual and legal issues related to the Gaza Operation, including the thousands of missile attacks that necessitated the Operation, and the deliberate Hamas entrenchment in civilian areas which made combat so complex and challenging.
Israel is committed to full compliance with the Law of Armed Conflict, and to investigating every allegation of violations, irrespective of the source of the allegation. Many of the investigations described in the Paper were opened by Israel as a result of its own concern. Others were opened in response to complaints from Palestinian civilians, NGO’s, and UN and media reports.
To date, the IDF has launched investigations into 150 separate incidents arising from the Gaza Operation. Of the 150 incidents, so far 36 have been referred for criminal investigation. Criminal investigators have taken statements from almost 100 Palestinians complainants and witnesses, along with approximately 500 IDF soldiers and commanders. In locating Palestinian witnesses and making arrangements for them to give evidence the IDF works together with local NGO’s.
Israel’s system for investigating allegations of violations of the Law of Armed Conflict is comparable to the systems adopted by other democratic nations, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Its commitment and ability to investigate and prosecute violations of international law has been confirmed by outside observers and foreign legal systems.
Israel’s investigative system, like that of many states, includes a range of checks and balances and multiple layers of review to ensure impartiality and independence. These include the Military Advocate General Corps, which is independent and not subject to the military chain of command; the civilian Attorney General by whom any decision of the Military Advocate General as to whether to investigate of to indict may be reviewed; and the Israeli Supreme Court whose review of any decision of the Military Advocate General or the Attorney General can be initiated by petition of any interested party, including NGO’s, Palestinians, and other non-citizens.
The Paper details the status of all of the investigations initiated following the Gaza Operation, and is not limited to the incidents described in the Report of the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission of the Gaza Conflict, chaired by Justice Richard Goldstone. It is not intended as a comprehensive rebuttal of the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Report of a catalogue of the Reports flaws. The paper does, however, note some of the Report’s inaccuracies and misrepresentations of Israel’s investigative system.
As regards the incidents described in the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Report, the paper notes that, prior to the publication of the Report, Israel was already investigating 22 of the 34 incidents it addresses. The remaining 12 incidents, none of which had previously been brought to the attention of the Israeli authorities, were promptly referred for investigation upon the Report’s publication. The Paper details the various stages of investigation of these incidents.
The Paper also provides updated information regarding the five command investigations initiated by the IDF Chief of the General Staff after the conclusion of hostilities in Gaza into the most serious allegations of wrongdoing, as well as a sixth special investigation recently opened. It notes that, in addition to providing the basis for investigations into specific incidents, these command investigations have also resulted in a number of operational lessons which have been or are being implemented.
Israel recognizes the importance of conducting the investigation process in a timely manner. At the same time, it remains committed to ensuring that all legal processes are conducted thoroughly and with full due process, and in a manner comparable with that of other stated guided by a respect for the rule of law.