The report Too little too late: The State Attorney’s Office supervision over the investigation of offenses committed by Israeli civilians against Palestinians is the second report published as part of Yesh Din’s multi-year project to examine the various reasons why the State of Israel continues to fail to enforce the law on Israeli civilians who harm Palestinian residents of the West Bank and their property. The report examines the manner in which the State Attorney’s Office supervises police investigations in the West Bank.
Yesh Din monitored and criticized two primary methods of supervision employed by the State Attorney’s Office regarding police investigations: appeals against decisions to close investigation files and a “law enforcement team” headed by the deputy state attorney (special assignments). The report’s initial finding was that the absence of law enforcement, as documented in our previous report A Semblance of the Law, continues unabated. As of the publication of the report, just 8% of the police investigations into complaints filed by Palestinian residents injured by Israelis led to indictments. 87% of the investigations of physical assaults of Palestinians by Israeli civilians ended without indictments, as did 100% of the investigations of property offenses.
In the report of the Shamgar Committee, issued following the 1994 massacre in the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron by an Israeli citizen, the Committee recommended, inter alia, initiating procedures for coordinating between the police and the state attorney’s office so as to “guarantee surveillance and supervision over the handling of files, including supervision over the decision regarding the closing of the files.” Yesh Din’s monitoring of the “law enforcement team” established for this purpose reflects that this conclusion has not been implemented.
The only remaining means for supervising individual investigation files that have been closed is an appeals process. The report found that as a rule, Palestinians who file complaints and are not counseled by an Israeli human rights organization refrain from filing an appeal. A review of the appeals submitted by Yesh Din’s legal team demonstrate that the appeals department at the state attorney’s office largely confirms police and district attorney decisions to close investigation files by accepting the suspects’ version (as far as these exist; most files are closed on the grounds the offender is unknown); coming to terms with police failure to conduct basic investigative procedures; and at times even disregarding evidence found in the investigation file and whose existence was specified in the appeals. The report also found that the appeals department deviates from the law that sets a deadline for considering appeals of investigations closed in cases of grave, violent offenses.
The report highlighted Israel’s failure to uphold its obligation to protect the residents of the occupied territory under its control from ideologically motivated crime, an obligation that is further augmented when protected residents reside in a territory under military occupation, and due to the obligation of the occupying power under international law to protect the population in the occupied territory from any third party.