Complaints against security forces personnel – soldiers and police officers – suspected of offenses against Palestinians are investigated by the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division (MPCID) and the Department of Police Investigations (DPI). According to both international humanitarian law and Israeli law, Israel must conduct effective investigations and, when necessary, prosecute soldiers and police officers who harm Palestinians.


However, MPCID figures reflect a low rate of indictments served against soldiers suspected of offenses against Palestinians, indicating a profound and ongoing failure to conduct exhaustive investigations against soldiers. The result is near impunity for IDF soldiers who harm Palestinians. The low rate of indictments stems in part from the difficulties Palestinians encounter filing complaints against soldiers and police officers; reluctance on the part of both crime victims and eyewitnesses to give statements to the investigating authorities for fear of retribution; the protracted delays in the work of investigating bodies, which undermines the quality of these investigations and impedes the possibility of prosecuting soldiers and police officers who harm Palestinians; and additional flaws in the investigations themselves.


In addition, IDF soldiers fail to protect Palestinians during violent altercations involving Israeli civilians in violation of their duty to protect. For years, a phenomenon termed “standing idly by” has existed, referring to incidents in which IDF soldiers witness violence against Palestinians and do nothing to prevent it or detain the perpetrators.


Israeli law includes lacunae that stand in the way of generating adequate deterrence to prevent harm to civilians. For instance, unlike many other countries, Israel has avoided adopting domestic legislation prohibiting the commission of war crimes. Israeli law also does not recognize the principle of command responsibility, which refers to the legal responsibility of military commanders and civilian superiors for war crimes committed by their subordinates.


A commission headed by former Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel recommended, in 2013, a number of measures towards improving Israel’s mechanisms for examining and investigating complaints and claims of violations of the laws of armed conflict. Yet, most of these recommendations have not been implemented.

Read more