Agence France Presse (AFP)
July 30, 2008 - 3:28pm

Only six percent of probes into offences allegedly committed by Israeli soldiers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank yield indictments, an Israeli rights group said on Wednesday.

The report came as the armed forces vowed to investigate the death of a 12-year-old boy Palestinian allegedly shot by Israeli troops during a protest on Tuesday against Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank.

Of a total of 1,246 investigations by the military police into suspected offences against Palestinians or Palestinian property between 2000 and 2007, only 76 ended in indictments, the Yesh Din human rights group said.

A total of 132 people were charged, of whom 110 were found guilty of various offences, four were acquitted, eight indictments were annulled and the trials of 10 others are still under way, the report said.

"The figures on the low number of investigations and the minute number of indictments filed reveal that the army is shirking its duty to protect the civilian Palestinian population from offences committed by its soldiers," Yesh Din legal advisor Michael Sfadi said in a statement.

According to figures provided to Yesh Din by the army, only a few of the investigations followed complaints from within army ranks.

Out of 152 probes launched in 2006, only 14, or nine percent, were based on complaints filed within the military, the report said. In 2007, seven percent of the investigations emanated from the army.

"The minute number of indictments launched following reports by commanders to military police brings to light the army's conspiracy of silence over offences against Palestinians," Sfadi said.

In response, an army spokesman said it deploys "several methods to examine in a professional manner complaints over offences against Palestinians."

He said that 39 soldiers have been charged since a special military justice section was formed to deal with this kind of investigations.

Following Tuesday's death of a Palstinian boy during a protest in the West Bank village of Nilin, the army vowed to conduct "a serious inquiry" into the incident with "concerned officials on the Palestinian side."

Hammad Hossam Mussa, 12, was hit in the head by a live bullet fired by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration in the village of Nilin, said Salah Al Khawaja, a member of Nilin's Committee Against the Wall.

In a separate incident, the army on Tuesday suspended a commander for 10 days after he failed a lie-detection test over the shooting of a blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinian with a rubber-coated bullet.

A videotape of the July 7 incident shows the Palestinian -- detained during a protest in Nilin -- with an army officer holding his arm while a soldier next to him appears to aim at his leg.


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