Israel: reform military justice system and ensure accountability for crimes under international law

Israel must end the cycle of impunity for crimes under international law committed by Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and overhaul its accountability framework and procedures, the ICJ said today.

Until then, the international community should fully support the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation into the Situation in Palestine, as the sole avenue of accountability for past and ongoing crimes falling under the jurisdiction of the Court.

“Israel is willfully promoting impunity for crimes committed in the OPT”, said Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“Given Israel’s inability and unwillingness to genuinely investigate and prosecute IDF members for alleged crimes in the OPT, the ICC ought to assert jurisdiction over them, and prosecute alleged perpetrators of crimes under the Rome Statute.”

In a legal briefing published today, the ICJ analyzes Israel’s failure to ensure accountability for alleged violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) committed by members of the IDF in the context of military operations in the Gaza Strip and law enforcement in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

The briefing addresses the accountability failures in law and practice characterizing Israel’s military justice system,and recommends the Israeli authorities to:

  • Establish effective civilian oversight over the military;
  • Transfer the competence to investigate and prosecute alleged violations of IHL and IHRL committed by IDF members from the Military Advocate General to an independent and impartial civilian authority;
  • Empower such an independent and impartial civilian authority to investigate and prosecute high-ranking military commanders or government officials for their role in giving orders or adopting and promulgating policies that result in serious violations of IHL and IHRL;
  • Limit the Military Advocate General’s competence in respect of enforcing criminal jurisdiction against IDF members to offences of a disciplinary or similar nature not constituting human rights violations;
  • Reform the Fact-Finding Assessment Mechanism to guarantee its independence from the IDF, as well as the impartiality, promptness and thoroughness of its inquiries;
  • Effectively investigate and, if evidence so warrant, prosecute and punish crimes under international law committed by IDF members;
  • Enact necessary legislation to proscribe war crimes in domestic criminal law, and to provide for superior responsibility as a mode of individual criminal liability for such offences, when warranted;
  • Guarantee Palestinians access to justice and effective remedies, including reparations, in Israeli courts.

In addition, the ICJ calls on:

  • Third States to consider exercising universal or other jurisdiction with a view to prosecuting alleged perpetrators of crimes under international law; and
  • Third States and the European Union to make sure not to aid or assist in the commission of internationally wrongful acts by Israel, including crimes under international law. This should entail halting the transfer of arms, technology and other equipment that may be used in the commission of such acts.

“At a time when the international legal order is under enormous strain, the international community must step up efforts to hold Israel to account and to uphold the human rights of Palestinians, including their rights to self-determination and to justice”, Benarbia added.

You can view or download the legal briefing here.


Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, email: said.benarbia(at)icj(dot)org, phone number: +41-22-979-3817

Vito Todeschini, Legal Adviser, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, e: vito.todeschini(a)

Asser Khattab, Research and Communications Officer at the ICJ’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, email: asser.khattab(at)icj(dot)org

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