The IDF has reportedly turned to the courts in an effort to force the controversial Breaking the Silence organization to hand over secret testimony by former Israeli soldiers about alleged abuses against Palestinians.
According to a report on the NRG website on Friday, the army is demanding testimonies that primarily relate to evidence of alleged war crimes and compliance by IDF troops with illegal orders. The State Prosecutor’s Office — officially acting on behalf of the army as the matter pertains to a civilian organization — has presented a petition to Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court, NRG said.
The legal proceedings began after correspondence by the State Prosecutor’s Office, asking Breaking the Silence to submit material to the military prosecutor, so that the army could investigate the claims, NRG reported.
The organization refused to hand over the material, and argued that the testimonies are protected by the confidentiality of sources, as is the case with journalists’ sources. The State Prosecution said in response that some of the material could be presented in such a way as to protect the sources, but Breaking the Silence declined to respond.
NRG quoted military officials familiar with the case as saying that the army views the issue very seriously, and if necessary, will take the matter to a higher court.
“It is very strange that people who say they know about these crimes are not ready to reveal who committed them,” NRG quoted a military source as saying. “It is as if a person claimed to know about a murder, but would not agree to divulge that information. This is unacceptable behavior, and we demand that Breaking the Silence either reconsider its claims or hand over the details.”
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said this week that, on taking office last year, he instructed the Military Advocate General to meet with members of Breaking the Silence in order to examine their claims one by one. But, he added, everything said at the meeting was tantamount to hearsay.
Breaking the Silence has denied that such a meeting occurred, NRG reported Friday. The group said that it had asked Eisenkot for a meeting last March and had not had a response to date.
Officials in the Military Advocate General’s Office told NRG that they were not aware of the petition, while the court’s administration said that the case was confidential and its details could not be reviewed.