peace protesters may face treason charge
Jonathan Steele in Jerusalem
August 6, 2002
Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, is trying to stamp out dissent
over army actions on the West Bank by ordering an inquiry into whether
a peace group committed treason by telling officers they could be
charged with war crimes.
The radical group, Gush Shalom, sent letters to 15 senior officers
advising them that imposing collective punishments or making hostages
of civilians violated the Geneva convention. It said the officers
had been identified by their own statements to the media.
Mr Sharon was reportedly enraged by the letters and spent much
of a cabinet meeting on Sunday discussing it.
The attorney-general was ordered to see if there were legal grounds
for taking action aganst Gush Shalom. Its letters warn officers
that evidence "has been compiled and put in a file ... which
is likely to be submitted as evidence in an Israeli court or to
an international war crimes tribunal".
The peace group has also organised petitions in which reservists
pledge not to serve in the West Bank or Gaza.
tells A-G to weigh proceedings against Gush Shalom
By Amos Harel and Gideon Alon,
August 5, 2002
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Sunday ordered Attorney-General
Elyakim Rubinstein to look into reports that activists from the
Gush Shalom peace organization are monitoring Israel Defense Forces
officers in order to report them to the International Criminal Court
in the Hague.
At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Sharon said it was "inconceivable"
that a political organization could try to deter reservists from
carrying out their orders in the territories by threatening them
with legal action in an international court.
Ministers Limor Livnat and Dan Naveh (Likud) joined Sharon in calling
on the attorney-general to look into taking legal steps against
the Gush Shalom activists. Naveh said it was extremely grave that
Israeli citizens were undermining the IDF in times of war.
In response, Rubinstein said the State Prosecutor's Office had
been looking into the case for several months, but had yet to decide
whether legal steps could be taken.
In a statement issued later Sunday, Gush Shalom said it would "not
be deterred by Prime Minister Sharon's threats. By collating information
on violations of international law by IDF troops in the occupied
territories, we have committed no crime."
In the last few months Gush Shalom has sent letters to IDF officers
on duty in the territories. The letters claim the officers are guilty
of offenses tantamount to war crimes. The officers have been warned
in these letters that the movement is monitoring their actions,
and that Gush Shalom intends to compile information against them
which will be submitted to the International Criminal Court. These
letters have been signed by "Gush Shalom's team for the collection
of evidence against war criminals."
The letters were sent to 15 IDF officers with ranks between lieutenant
colonel and brigadier general. Gush Shalom identified the officers
on the basis of interviews which they gave to local media during
IDF operations in the territories. As a result of these operations,
Palestinian residents in the territories lodged complaints about
IDF behavior; the peace movement based its letters on these complaints.
One such letter, which reached Ha'aretz, was sent a few months
ago to a brigadier general who is serving in the territories. The
letter refers to a round-up of suspects carried out by the IDF in
several villages. In coordination with the Shin Bet security service,
family members of leading terror suspects were detained in this
round-up the goal of such arrests was to obtain information on the
whereabouts of the terror suspects and perhaps also to pressure
them to turn themselves in.