A Nation of Murderers Now Has Its Hands Full

September 5, 2006

In News

By Haaretz Service

The Foreign Ministry fears a wave of lawsuits accusing Israeli military and governmental officials of war crimes, Army Radio said Monday, adding that a report prepared by the ministry’s chief legal advisor warns officials against inflammatory statements in connection with the recent war, saying that their words could later be used against them in foreign lawsuits or indictments for alleging them to be war criminals.

In the past, a number of IDF generals have deferred visits to Europe, for fear of arrest over allegations of war crimes in connection with the Intifada.

Cabinet Minister Yitzhak Herzog, currently traveling in Finland, said Monday that international conventions granted government officials immunity from prosecution, but that the problem was ‘much more complicated’ with respect to IDF officers, especially retired officers.

‘There is no question that there is an effort by organizations of various kinds to harm, in particular, [IDF] officers and commanders. This certainly doesn’t touch the governmental echelon, but this takes nothing away from the seriousness of the problem.’

According to Herzog, after the Intifada, Israel approved ‘an envelope of legal defense to senior officials and officers, and I believe that the outline that the Foreign Ministry is proposing for many of these issues, is a correct one.’

Cabinet minister Eli Yishai and former justice minister Haim Ramon are among those who have been mentioned as having made especially harsh statements in wartime, during which Israeli ministers were quoted as having advocated ‘taking down’ villages which served as shelters for Hezbollah.

Legal authority Yael Ronen said Monday that some officers or government officials who traveled to Europe stood the risk of being arrested.

‘In connection with war criminals, international law holds that due to the severity of the charges, nations may bring the accused to trial, no matter where the crimes were committed, nor against whom,’ she told the radio.

Herzog said he had spoken with Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz on the issue during the war. ‘He stated that the army was taking all of this under consideration, and was acting according to the rules, and had certainly internalized this consideration in its actions.’