HCJ 5282/09 Yesh Din Volunteers for Human Rights v Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi

During the trial of First Lieutenant Adam Malul of the Kfir Brigad who was indicted for violently attacking a Palestinian detainee during a military operation in the village of Qaddum near Nablus in 2008, then Brigade Commander, Brigade Colonel Itay Virob and Malul’s Battalion Commander Shimon Harush testified that the soldiers in the brigade were permitted to use violence against Palestinians in the West Bank for alleged questioning purposes.

When Brigade Commander Virob was asked several times if he himself beat Palestinians, he responded: “You don’t count these things.” He was asked again: “10,000, 100?” and responded, “I didn’t reach 10,000.” Later on he said, “I think a few times.” He justified soldiers slapping Palestinians they investigated but said head-butting with a helmet was excessive.

Battalion Commander Shimon Harush said in his testimony in court that “the level of aggression directed against someone who is not involved leads to information and to the person involved… all the means of pressure we use – the vast majority is used against people who are not involved.” He added “Using violence and aggression to prevent an escalation in violence, and the need to use even more violence is not only permitted but sometimes an imperative… giving a blow, a push, in a situation involving people who are not involved in an operational situation, if it can advance the mission – is certainly possible.”

The two officers testified regarding use of a procedure termed “disruption brick” used in their units to undermine the daily routine in the village, and that their subordinates conduct “investigations” without having been trained to do so. Yesh Din demanded the Military Advocate General (MAG) suspend the two officers and open criminal investigations against them. The MAG refused, and as a result, Yesh Din and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ), demanding officers Virob and Harush be suspended, and that a criminal investigation be opened against them.

The petition stated: “Who would have believed we would be standing before the honorable court and trying to make the case that a commander who allows and even orders his soldiers to beat civilians in their custody in order to obtain information, to raid a village with jeeps just to instill fear in the residents and to “disrupt the lives” and “choke people in order to calm the situation” must immediately be prevented from instructing soldiers operating in a civilian area for even one more day! Who would have believed we would be forced to insist the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division (MPCID) open an investigation as a result of the commanders’ admission that they allow slapping and kneeing uninvolved (and therefore innocent) civilians, and that they themselves have beaten civilians. It must be explicitly and directly stated: the price of not dismissing and not opening an investigation will be immediately translated to the field and we will all measure it with spilled blood, shattered and hurt body parts and the damaged lives of protected civilians.”

On June 13, 2010 the MAG announced it would open a criminal investigation, and as a result Yesh Din withdrew the petition. In January 2011, Military Advocate General Avichai Mandelblit closed the investigation against Virob and in January 2012, Virob was promoted to rank of brigadier general. In March 2016, Virob served as commander of the Gaza Division.

Petition Status: The petition was withdrawn as a result of the opening of a criminal investigation against Virob and Harush