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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 December 2007, 17:48 GMT
Israeli army 'crimes' unpunished
Israel soldier at a checkpoint for Palestinians in the West Bank
Israel insists dozens of roadblock checkpoints are needed for security
An Israeli human rights group says the overwhelming majority of Israeli troops suspected of criminal offences against Palestinians are never indicted.

The small number of investigations and even fewer indictments showed Israel's army was ignoring its duty to protect Palestinian civilians, Yesh Din says.

It said soldiers felt they had immunity from investigation and prosecution, which inevitably led to more offences.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said no-one was above the law.

The spokesman, Mark Regev, added that any complaints would be taken seriously by the Israeli legal authorities.

Yesh Din's report said offences included "illegal shooting causing the death and injury of civilians, violence and abuse, intentional damage to property, looting, taking bribes".

Between 2000 and 2007, it says, 239 investigations into the killing and wounding of non-combatant Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces had led to just 16 convictions.

Occupying power

"The low number of investigations opened and the minute number of indictments served reveal the [Israeli Defence Force's] de facto derogation of its duty to protect the Palestinian population against offences committed by soldiers," said Yesh Din legal adviser Michael Sfard.

A recent survey commissioned by the Israeli army said one-in-four soldiers who had served at checkpoints in the West Bank had witnessed or taken part in abuse of Palestinians.

Soldiers quoted anonymously admitted humiliating Palestinians, delaying them without good reason and accepting bribes.

Under international law, the Israeli army is considered an occupying power the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with a duty to protect the civilian population.

Israel captured the territories - home to about four million Palestinians - during the 1967 war.

It pulled troops out of Gaza in 2005 but still keeps a tight grip on its borders and air space.



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