Tuesday, July 06, 2010

To Have a Trial After an Investigation

Following a lengthy investigation, an Israeli soldier will be formally tried for the killing of a Palestinian woman during Operation Cast Lead (right now the charge looks like manslaughter).

The incident was one of several specifically mentioned in the Goldstone report. Military Advocate General Avihai Mandelblit, in charge of investigating those allegations, is pursuing action in three more cases, and has elected to close the investigation into the remaining 19 events mentioned in the report.

I'm curious about what Judge Goldstone thinks of all this. After all, Goldstone was quite adament that the goal of his commission was not to convict anyone, but rather trigger an investigation by the parties themselves. And Israel, at least, has done this, and issued several indictments. Is this enough to satisfy him? Who knows. Normally, the standard of review in these instances (to justify pulling a case out of national and into international jurisdiction) is rather stringent -- it certainly isn't "what I would have done if I were doing the investigation myself". But without knowing the facts of the relevant cases, it's hard for me to evaluate.

It obviously is a good sign that Israel is willing to initiate prosecution against soldiers who violate the rules of war (assuming, of course, that the evidence here supported a prosecution). I've been pretty consistent, I think, in asserting that credible investigations ought to be taken and perpetrators of crimes (on all sides) should be punished -- but that taking this position was entirely inconsistent with shouting "savage war criminal Nazis" from moment zero. Hopefully, my patience has been vindicated, as we are getting a trial after the investigation, rather than watching as a verdict comes down first, with a pro forma inquiry following.

1 comment:

joe said...

And Israel, at least, has done this, and issued several indictments. Is this enough to satisfy him? Who knows.

Good question. Among other things, a lot of data points are needed to say "Goldstone would be right/wrong to be satisfied." A couple indictments don't necessarily mean much. I don't think, for example, we can say the US had a deep commitment to the laws of war in Vietnam because it convicted William Calley (though the popular sympathy he received sure says something).

In general, I would note that a lengthy investigation process is where plenty of allegations against military personnel go to die. We in civilian life should all be so fortunate to be accorded as much deference for our actions by investigating authorities.