Settlers Enjoy Widespread Impunity in Attacks against Palestinians, Says Israeli Group

TEL AVIV, May 18, 2015 (WAFA) – A report published by the Israeli human rights organization of Yesh Din stated that Israeli settlers enjoy widespread impunity for their attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank.

“The IDF and police are neither prepared nor willing to provide the necessary protection to Palestinians attacked by violent settlers.”

It said that, “Law enforcement agencies display repeated failure to conduct proper investigations of these incidents. When convictions are made, Israeli citizens involved in such violent acts are handed light sentences,” stated the report.

According to international humanitarian law, as the occupying power in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Israel is charged with ensuring the security and safety of the residents of the OPT. However, Israel has neglected this obligation for decades.

Yesh Din said that the failure of law enforcement in the OPT has led many Palestinians to refrain from filing complaints when attacked.

“The State’s ongoing failure to instate criminal accountability of violent settlers inadvertently empowers them and supports the continuation of their strategic brand of violence,” said the report.

Acts of violence are being committed by Israeli civilians against Palestinians in the West Bank on a daily basis, manifesting in many forms of attacks against people and destruction of their property.

The report stated, “These acts of violence are not isolated incidents, nor are they simple acts of hate or anger. Rather this brand of violence is part of a sophisticated, wider strategy designed to assert territorial domination over Palestinians in the West Bank.

In another report issued by Yesh Din, the organization said that, “Despite their legal obligations, the reality is that Israeli security forces in the West Bank frequently participate or stand idly by while violence against Palestinians is being committed. Behind this indifference is a pervasive culture of impunity that is maintained by the various Israeli authorities operating in the West Bank.”

Most cases of violent crimes against Palestinians not only go unpunished – but often are completely ignored by the authorities. This is a blatant violation of the human rights of Palestinian civilians living in the West Bank and of Israel’s duties under International Humanitarian Law, said the report.

Even when criminal investigations against soldiers accused of such offences are opened, they almost always fail.

According to research carried out by Yesh Din, “approximately 94 percent of criminal investigations launched by the IDF against soldiers suspected of criminal violent activity against Palestinians and their property are closed without any indictments. In the rare cases that indictments are served, conviction leads to very light sentencing.”

Moreover, Palestinians who attempt to file complaints about crimes committed against them face staggering obstacles in their way. The complete absence of military police stations open to the public in the West Bank, for example, makes it literally impossible for Palestinians to file complaints directly with the military police.

Yesh Din works to assist victims of criminal offenses by security personnel, as well as to increase transparency in the IDF and instate accountability of members of the security forces who commit criminal offenses against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territories.

There are around 341 thousand settlers and 100 settlement outposts in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in area C, under full Israeli control and which constitutes about 60 percent of West Bank land, according to UN statistics.

Settlements are illegal under international law as they violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of the occupying power’s civilian population into occupied territory.