zaterdag 18 juli 2009

IDF officier ontkent gebruik Palestijnen als menselijk schild in Gaza

Volgens een hoge officier uit het leger zijn de claims van Breaking the Silence overdreven en uit hun context gehaald, waardoor ze extremer lijken dan ze zijn. Hij geeft het voorbeeld waar een Palestijn zelf vroeg een huis eerst binnen te mogen gaan, om zo de schade te beperken. Hij wijst erop dat in onderzoek binnen zijn eigen brigade niks van dergelijke misstanden is gevonden. Het is natuurlijk lastig van buitenaf uit te maken wie gelijk heeft, maar het spreekt niet in het voordeel van Breaking the Silence dat zoveel getuigenissen anoniem zijn en bovendien uit derde hand komen: de soldaten hebben het niet zelf meegemaakt, maar zelf weer van een ander gehoord. Ook is het vreemd dat men de resultaten niet aan het leger heeft voorgelegd en om een reactie heeft gevraagd. Wanneer duidelijk is om welke soldaten, eenheden, plaatsen en data het gaat, kan de zaak worden onderzocht, en kunnen mensenrechtengroeperingen bijvoorbeeld aandringen op bestraffing van de betreffende soldaten of officieren.
Last update - 11:33 16/07/2009       
IDF officer: Troops did not use Gazans as human shields
By Amos Harel and Haaretz Service
A top-ranking Israel Defense Forces officer has hit back at claims by a combat soldier that IDF troops unlawfully used Palestinians as human shields to search for militants inside Gaza homes during Israel's recent offensive in the coastal strip.
The officer told Haaretz that soldiers' claims of having employed such practice were exaggerated and unfounded, and that a probe of the Golani Brigade's conduct during the war found that no such incidences occurred.
A staff sergeant from the Golani Brigade recently testified that a number of units, including his own, sent Palestinians into their neighbors' homes during fighting in eastern Gaza City to determine if there were any militants hiding inside.
The soldier was referring to the so-called "neighbor procedure" ? outlawed by the High Court of Justice in 2005 - when it raided homes in search of Palestinian militants.
The soldier said that while he had not actually witnessed the use of human shields, one of his commanding officers had informed him that procedure had been carried out.
"The practice was not to call it 'the neighbor procedure.' Instead it was called 'Johnny,'" the soldier said, using IDF slang for Palestinian civilians.
The soldier said that at every home where militants were thought to be hiding, troops besieged the building with the goal of removing the suspects alive. The soldier said he witnessed several such operations firsthand.
He testified that his commander had told him of a number of incidents where Palestinians were also used directly as human shields. One on such occasion, he said, attack helicopters were brought in as back-up for the arrest of three armed militants.
The soldier said he had heard of other instances in which Palestinian civilians were used as human shields. He cited a case in which a Palestinian was placed in front of an IDF force with a gun pointed at him from behind, but said he had not seen this for himself.
The soldier's testimony appeared in a collection of accounts being published earlier this week by Breaking the Silence, an organization that collects IDF soldiers' testimony on human rights abuses by the military. The Golani soldier gave similar testimony in a meeting with a Haaretz reporter.
In rejecting the claims, the officer told Haaretz that the soldier's account of troops pointing guns at a Palestinian acting as a human shield were exaggerated, and that a probe conducted in the brigade found no indication that such an episode took place.
The officer also said that while a Palestinian may have hammered through a wall of his home to assist soldiers, he did so on his own initiative and not as a result of orders from the troops.
'"The owner of the house in which the three gunmen had barricaded saw that the soldiers were trying to break in from a side wall. He claimed that they were causing too much damage to the house and asked to do it himself. That's why the soldiers gave him the hammer," said the officer.
While the officer confirmed that Palestinians were indeed used to sweep houses in search of militants, he claimed that the soldier had described the incidents out of context, and that the local residents had offered to enter homes first.
"The prevention of civilian casualties and the implementation of selective house searches, while avoiding massive use of gunfire, were especially upheld in the sector in which the unit operated," he said.
"People within the unit risked their own lives to avoid harming the innocent," he added. ?The simplest solution as far as the unit was concerned was to order two tank shells be fired into every suspicious house. But in reality, we used a completely different method."
"Two Palestinians, one of them the clan leader, appealed to the commanders and offered to enter first so as to prevent damage to the houses," said the officer. "On several occasions, we would find whole families huddled in a tiny room upon entering the home, and we thought that it was a good solution. It's far from a human shield. We didn't hide behind anyone. The whole idea was to prevent innocent people from being harmed by taking the risks upon ourselves."
When asked if he was aware of the High Court ruling forbidding all forms of the "neighbor procedure," the officer said that the commanders believed they were acting within the limits of the law. He said the sole purpose of their actions was the prevention of civilian casualties and "unnecessary collateral damage."
IDF: We expect every soldier to report violations
The IDF Spokesman's Office said in a statement that upon initial consideration, a few of the allegations appeared similar to claims reported by Haaretz
several months ago.
"Now, too," the spokesman said, "a considerable portion of the testimony is based on rumors and secondhand accounts. Most of the incidents relate to anonymous testimony lacking in identifying details, and accordingly it is not possible to check the allegations on an individual basis in a way that would enable an investigation, confirmation or refutation."
The spokesman said the Breaking the Silence report suggested that the organization may not be interested in a comprehensive examination of the allegations, "and to our regret this is not the first time the organization has taken this course of action. The IDF is obligated to examine every well-founded complaint it receives."
The spokesman also noted that allegations by Breaking the Silence that touch on specific incidents will be investigated.
"The IDF expects every soldier and commander who has witnessed a violation of orders or procedures, and especially with respect to violations causing injury to noncombatants, to bring the details to the attention of the relevant parties," the spokesman said.
"The IDF regrets the fact that a human rights organization would again present to the country and the world a report containing anonymous, generalized testimony without checking the details or their reliability, and without giving the IDF, as a matter of minimal fairness, the opportunity to check the matters and respond to them before publication."


Geen opmerkingen:

Een reactie posten