“The investigations were never intended to ensure justice for the victims or to deter troops… Their sole purpose was to silence international criticism,” the Betselem-PCHR report pointed out.
On Thursday, the Israeli NGO Betselem and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) denounced that Israel covers up the truth and protects the political and military officials responsible for the murder of over 200 Palestinians between 2018 and 2019.
The Israeli authorities did not carry out a real and comprehensive investigation into the crackdown on the Great March of Return protests, through which Palestinians called for an end to the blockade of Gaza. In response to the protests that took place every week, Israeli forces opened fire on people and injured over 13,500 people, 155 of whom lost some of their limbs due to amputations.
The Israeli investigations have only been a "smokescreen" to prevent those responsible from being tried before the International Criminal Court (ICC), which opened investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Israeli Army since June 2014. While Israel initially said it was investigating the incidents, its official investigation has not been effective and did not meet minimum necessary requirements.
“The investigations… were never intended to ensure justice for the victims or to deter troops… Their sole purpose was to silence international criticism… and to avert the ICC's intervention by producing a paper trail ostensibly showing Israel is investigating,” the Betselem-PCHR report pointed out, adding that Israeli investigations only focused on lower-ranking soldiers to avoid investigating high-ranking military commanders and political authorities.
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In its reaction to the complaints, the Israeli Army disqualified the legitimacy of the Palestinian protests, presenting them as "hostile terrorist activities" that resulted in the death of a soldier.
"Describing the violent riots as civil protests is completely untrue ... The higher ups on the ground made the decision to open fire, based on their professional assessment of the risk posed by rioters," the Army said.
So far, the Israeli investigation has only resulted in the conviction of a soldier who murdered a 14-year-old Palestinian. This murderer, however, was found guilty of a minor disciplinary offense and sentenced to one month of community military service.
Betselem and PCHR stressed that "Israel is unwilling and unable to investigate human rights abuses" because doing so would entail international responsibilities. "Government officials, the Attorney General, Supreme Court justices, and senior military officials are responsible for designing and enforcing the open fire policy," the human rights defenders stressed.