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Israeli peace protesters may face treason charge

Jonathan Steele in Jerusalem
The Guardian
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.


Sharon 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.