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IDF Officers May Face War Crime Charges in Europe

IDF officers receiving a classified Foreign Ministry memorandum are warned they may face arrest and charges of war crimes in Europe.
By Yechiel Spira
First Publish: 9/4/2006, 1:11 PM / Last Update: 9/4/2006, 7:18 AM

Israel has learned that certain European and international organizations have already begun working towards compiling cases against IDF officers and government officials, planning to file war crimes charges against them for Israel’s actions in Lebanon. Officers are being warned against visiting Europe as a result.

Foreign Ministry legal advisor Ehud Keinan, who distributed the memorandum, warns soldiers of the impending legal threat, one that may result in criminal charges against both senior and junior military officers alike.

Organizations based in Europe are working in earnest to compile evidence against political leaders and senior commanders, seeking to charge the latter with war crimes for complying with orders in the recent war in southern Lebanon.

Ministers cited include Eli Yishai of Shas, who is quoted as saying, “Entire villages must be wiped out,” in reference to IDF activities during the war. Also cited is Haim Ramon, the justice minister who stepped down in light of an ongoing police investigation against him in an unrelated matter. Ramon made similar remarks in statements referring to the village of Bint Jbeil.

Keinan warns officers and cabinet ministers alike to refrain from using terms such as “eradicate” and “crush,” since they provide those seeking to build cases against them with ammunition.

The Foreign Ministry and State Prosecutor’s Office have hired the services of criminal attorneys in Europe, adding that efforts are underway to find a common language with European leaders in the hope of avoiding situations that would prove difficult and embarrassing to Israel and nations like Britain. Government officials in Israel state that British leaders are troubled by the trend as well, but they explain that the law in Europe permits such actions, based on international law.

During the past year, there have been a number of cases in which senior IDF officers were instructed to cancel travel plans to England, and in one case, a senior officer was instructed to remain on board a plane that landed in the UK when embassy officials learned that he would have been placed under arrest upon entering the country. The officer, Doron Almog, returned to Israel on the next flight.

Israel offers protection to officers in such situations, pointing out that despite all efforts at home, European law permits filing charges of war crimes and reality dictates that Israel address the situation with the seriousness it demands.