Agence France Presse (AFP)
July 9, 2008 - 4:37pm

Nine out of 10 investigations into attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank are closed without anyone being indicted, the Israeli Yesh Din human rights group said on Wednesday.

It said that of 163 such completed investigations it monitored in recent years, only 13 led to indictments being filed, 149 files were closed without indictments and one file was lost and never investigated.

Yesh Din said police investigating a case rarely visited the crime scene, often failed to collect testimony from key witnesses and suspects, and hardly ever carried out lineups of suspects.

It said that in the investigation files it had seen alibis presented by suspects were never checked out.

Ninety-one files were closed on grounds of "perpetrators unknown," 43 for "lack of evidence," nine for "no criminal culpability," five for unknown reasons and one was closed for "lack of public interest," Yesh Din said.

The group said the cases it monitored included Israeli civilians allegedly assaulting Palestinians, seizing their land, uprooting their trees and damaging their crops or agricultural equipment, and for arson and theft.

No official body maintains complete data on offences by Israeli civilians against Palestinians, the group said.

Investigation files in these cases are listed "Israeli DOP," which stands for disturbance against the peace by an Israeli, and also include offences by Israelis against members of the security forces.

"The weak hand that avoids enforcing the law on Israeli civilian residents of the West Bank causes the state of Israel to violate its moral and international obligations to the people living under our control," said Michael Sfard, Yesh Din's legal counsel.

Human rights groups say many of the attacks are carried out by Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank.

Last month police arrested two settlers after Palestinian shepherds were beaten up in an incident captured on video by a relative using a camera supplied by the Israeli BT'Selem human rights group to document such attacks.

B'Tselem said it investigated 47 cases of physical assault, gunfire, beating, kicking, or stone-throwing by settlers against Palestinians last year and reported them all to police.

"Based on B'Tselem's experience, the reported incidents are likely a small portion of the cases of settler violence against Palestinians," the group said in its 2007 annual report.

"All law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities demonstrate little interest in uncovering the substantial violence that Israeli civilians commit against Palestinians in the occupied territories," the group said.

The Israeli police insist that such attacks are rare, however.


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