The Israeli Supreme Court on July 1 ordered the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to refile indictments on more serious charges against a soldier and an officer accused of shooting a blindfolded prisoner with a rubber bullet. Human rights groups B’Tselem, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) and Yesh Din filed suit against the IDF, saying that a charge of conduct unbecoming a soldier, the least serious military criminal sanction, did not reflect the severity of the crime.
The charges stem from an August 2008 incident in the Palestinian town of Ni’lin in which an IDF soldier shot a handcuffed and blindfolded protester, Ashraf Abu Rahma, in the foot with a rubber bullet at an officer’s direction. Although Rahma did not sustain serious injury, Supreme Court Justice Ayala Procaccia said that the officer had committed a moral failure in ordering the shooting, and that the soldier should not have followed the officer’s order because the act was illegal. The rights groups welcomed the decision, but expressed dismay that the Supreme Court’s intervention was necessary in the matter.
Rights groups have long been critical of IDF tactics in Palestine. Last month, PCATI issued a report asserting that harsh shackling techniques used by the IDF and the Shin Bet Security Agency (GSS) constitute torture. Last year, PCATI alleged that detainees are regularly beaten and abused by IDF soldiers after they no longer pose a security risk. In 2007, the IDF launched investigations into two incidents of soldiers using Palestinians as human shields, in violation of Article 51(7) of the 1977 Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions and other international agreements. (Jurist, July 2)