Israeli Human Rights Organizations: The recent statements by Richard Goldstone support the consistent position we have been upholding since the operation in Gaza, that when concerns arise regarding harm to civilians due to violations of international law, an independent investigation must be launched.
The human rights organizations – the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, B’Tselem, Gisha, the Public Committee against Torture, Yesh Din, Hamoked: Center for Defense of the Individual, Adalah, Rabbis for Human Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, and Breaking the Silence – have appealed to the Attorney General immediately following Operation Cast Lead, calling on him to investigate allegations regarding violations of the laws of war during the operation.
The organizations continue to stress that in cases of concerns regarding violations of the laws of war, Israel is obligated to initiate a thorough examination of the matter – by an independent and impartial investigative body.
Since the publication of the Goldstone Report, the Israeli army opened more than 50 investigations regarding events that took place during the operation in Gaza. Three of those investigations led to indictments. More than two years after the operation, it is still unclear what happened to the majority of these investigations. Furthermore, no inquiry was initiated regarding the policies determined by senior military and government officials.
Although Israel has not yet established an independent and non-military inquiry committee to investigate the events of Operation Cast Lead, most of the investigations that were opened used information provided by various human rights organizations. We hope that the authorities have realized the importance of such investigations, and therefore we reiterate our appeal to the state, to launch and independent, non-military, and transparent investigative process to examine the body of complaints regarding the Israeli military’s conduct during Operation Cast Lead.
The Turkel Commission, an independent committee set up by the Israeli government following the events of the Gaza Flotilla, is currently examining whether the existing inquiry system is compatible with the obligations set upon the state by the laws of war. We call on the committee to recommend that the government set up a permanent independent inquiry body, according to the obligations defined in international law, and that this body shall be responsible for investigating suspicions regarding violations of international law when such suspicions arise, and not as a result of external pressures.
A country that seeks to uphold the laws of war and to minimize the harm to innocent persons, must also deal with suspicions of wrongdoing by the military. It is thus crucial to highlight the accepted norms of protecting civilian population during combat, and to do everything possible in order to minimize harm to civilians in the future.
January 2009 letter to the Attorney General, submitted by eight human rights organizations and demanding the establishment of an independent mechanism to investigate the killing and injuring of civilians during the operation in Gaza: http://www.acri.org.il/en/?p=602.
January 2010 letter to the Prime Minister (one year after Operation Cast Lead and before the UN debate the Goldstone report) urging Netanyahu to conduct an impartial inquiry: http://www.acri.org.il/en/?p=708.