In a shocking development, a Jaffa military court has reportedly blocked the demotion of three Israeli soldiers for abusing two Palestinian detainees this year. While the prosecutors and defense had agred to a demotion to privates for the staff sergeants, the court found that such punishment was unwarranted and ordered that they only be demoted to sergeant after serving five and a half months for their crimes.
The judges found the punishment to be too harsh despite findings of the cruel abuse of the young men. The soldiers took two 17-year-old Palestinians at their base in the settlement of Shavei Shomron and beat the handcuffed boys. The boys were forced to say Hebrew words and a heat conductor was attached to one of their faces. To her credit and that of her battalion, another soldier complained about the mistreatment.
The judges ruled that “The humiliation of helpless minors… is an ugly act which badly harms not only the immediate victims of the offense, but the army’s moral strength as well.” Yet, the judges found that the mistreatment was not severe enough to warrant the agreed upon demotions since “such a heavy punishment does not reflect the many rights accumulated by the three during their service.”
It is hard to see how this is particularly heavy punishment in light of the abuses. Beating and humiliating bond prisoners seems pretty serious abuse to me. The soldier who reported the abuses showed considerable integrity and courage. These judges undermined that noble act by treating this abuse as a relatively minor affair. In the United States, the soldiers would have likely faced more severe criminal penalties and thrown from the ranks with an “other than honorable” discharge.
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