Israel to act on soldier misconduct after BBC investigation

The Israeli military has told BBC Verify it will take action against any soldiers found to have filmed and uploaded footage online of Palestinian detainees stripped, bound and blindfolded.

A BBC Verify investigation published on Friday analysed hundreds of videos in Gaza since November 2023, including eight showing detainees.

Legal experts say the filming and publication of such videos could breach international law which says detainees must not be exposed to unnecessary humiliation or public curiosity.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) initially said it had terminated the service of one of the reservists identified by the BBC. It has now added that it will continue to act to identify unusual cases that deviate from what is expected of its soldiers.

It also said “significant command measures will be taken” against soldiers involved in the footage identified by the BBC.

The eight videos of detainees identified by BBC Verify were all posted by serving or former soldiers, who did not hide their identity.

International human rights lawyer Sir Geoffrey Nice told the BBC’s Today programme on Monday the filming and posting of such videos “may well be a war crime”.

Sir Geoffrey worked with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) between 1998 and 2006.

An IDF soldier interrogates a detainee in Gaza
Image caption,An IDF soldier interrogates a detainee in Gaza

In a video posted on 24 December 2023 by an IDF soldier, a Palestinian detainee is shown stripped and bleeding with his hands bound and sitting on a chair while being interrogated before being marched through the streets of Gaza barefoot.

When asked about the circumstances of the photo by the BBC, the IDF said in a statement: “The photo was taken during a field questioning. The suspect was not injured. A reservist photographed and published the picture contrary to IDF orders and values. It was recently decided to terminate his reserve service.”

Another video, posted by the same soldier on the same day, shows hundreds of Palestinian detainees gathered in a sports field. Most of those in the video have been stripped to their underwear, some blindfolded and kneeling in rows, while Israeli soldiers look on.

At one point, a group including three women are seen kneeling and blindfolded behind a football goal with an Israeli flag hung above it.

Two videos uploaded by another IDF soldier include pictures of blindfolded detainees, interspersed with images of soldiers posing with guns

All eight videos have since disappeared from social media platforms.

Sir Geoffrey, a leading expert on war crimes, said there should be a wider investigation into the footage beyond the dismissal of one reservist.

He told the Today Programme on Monday: “The atmosphere in which soldiers operate reflects again the chain of command immediately above them and possibly the chain of command right to the top. That’s something that always needs to be investigated.”

When this allegation was put to the IDF spokesperson Peter Lerner, he told the same programme: “There can be mistakes on the ground… We conduct our operations in the battleground and also in the questioning room within framework of laws, framework of instructions and when there are breaches of those, then they are treated [by] disciplinary or other methods.”

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