Yesh Din responded to a call by the Israeli Ministry of Justice and submitted an alternative (“shadow”) report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The report does not purport to provide an exhaustive evaluation of the extent to which Israel upholds its obligations according to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. Rather, it focuses on two of the issues that Israel has been asked to report on: the investigation of suspected use of excessive force by Israeli security forces against Palestinians, and law enforcement on Israeli civilians in the West Bank.
The Committee, whose members include world experts in the field of law and human rights, is charged with monitoring implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by the states party to the covenant. In 2012, Professor Yuval Shany, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University, was appointed as a member of the Committee. Each state party to the covenant submits a periodic report to the Committee describing the status of human rights in it. These states also appear before the Committee and answer questions posed by its members. The State of Israel cooperates in full with the Committee, and in recent years a delegation of senior representatives from various government ministries has represented Israel before the Committee. The Ministry of Justice also invites civil society organizations in Israel to submit alternative reports to the Committee in their field of activity. Israel appeared before the Human Rights Committee in October 2014 during its meeting in Geneva and responded to a list of issues raised by the Committee.
Ahead of the appearance by representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Yesh Din – which has monitored the manner in which Israeli authorities investigate offenses against Palestinians in the West Bank by both security forces and Israeli civilians, and advocates for prompt, professional, and impartial investigations – submitted an alternative report to the Committee. The alternative report summarizes Yesh Din’s long-term research on these two topics and presents key findings, as published in our reports.
Throughout its years of operation, Yesh Din has encountered unwillingness on the part of the State’s agencies to protect Palestinians and their property in the West Bank from ideologically motivated offenses by Israeli citizens, as well as structural failures in the work of Israeli authorities handling these incidents. Yesh Din’s monitoring reveals that the law enforcement system in the West Bank has overwhelmingly failed to carry out several duties: to provide protection in real time by preventing assaults and other offenses, to investigate the offenses and to bring offenders to justice. The alternative report addresses the relevant state authorities’ failings when it comes to protecting Palestinians’ rights to life, liberty and personal security in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel’s failure to fulfill its positive obligations of providing protection and the right to legal aid.
The alternative report highlights the flaws in the investigations mechanisms of the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division and the Samaria and Judea (SJ) District Police. It also includes practical recommendations for improving the functions of the investigative mechanisms whose work the Yesh Din monitors.
Among the recommendations regarding Israeli security forces:
- The military’s investigation mechanism is in need of fundamental reform in order to become an independent, effective apparatus capable of uncovering the truth. Immediate implementation of all Turkel Commission recommendations would lead to significant improvement.
- The MPCID must launch criminal investigations into all complaints that indicate suspicion of a criminal offense, without the condition that an inquiry procedure is completed.
- Action is required to reduce the duration of treatment of cases by investigative and prosecutorial bodies.
- In cases where suspicions are raised as to the legality of the policies or orders issued by the MAGC, senior officers in the rank of the Military Advocate General or above, or the political echelon, the investigation must be carried out by an independent and professional body external to the IDF and conferred with investigative and prosecutorial powers.
- The MAGC must train the MPCID investigators who investigate offenses against Palestinians in the Laws of Armed Conflict and the obligations arising from them.
- The principle of command responsibility must be enshrined in Israeli law. This doctrine renders military commanders and civilian superiors criminally liable for offenses committee by their subordinates. War crimes must similarly be included in Israeli domestic legislation as special offenses.
Among the recommendations regarding law enforcement on Israeli citizens:
- The protection of Palestinians must be defined as the IDF’s main objective.
- Professional and effective investigations at the Judea and Samaria district police must be ensured.
- Training on international humanitarian law must be integrated into the IDF training system at all levels and ranks.
- Soldiers who “stand idly by” must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
- Illegal outposts must be dismantled, and a determined and uncompromising effort must be made against illegal Israeli construction on the West Bank.
The report published by the Committee in October 2014 adopted some of Yesh Din’s conclusions. Among other things, the Committee determined that the State of Israel must increase its efforts to ensure a professional and independent investigation mechanism that will investigate incidents in which Palestinians and their property are harmed. The Committee also called to adopt the Turkel Commission’s recommendations and emphasize the need to investigate commanders.