[RAMALLAH, 25 March 2010] - DCI-Palestine welcomes the commencement of the trial of two Israeli soldiers accused of using a 9-year-old boy for military purposes and to shield themselves from danger during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza (December 2008-January 2009).The incident, documented by DCI-Palestine, is one of three that occurred during Operation Cast Lead, with seven children in total used to assist Israeli soldiers in military operations.
DCI-Palestine remains concerned that the charges brought against the pair, of acting "in breach of military norms", are far too lenient and do not reflect the gravity of the violation. [See press release issued on 12 March]
Israeli news report yesterday quoted one of the defendants, from the Givati infantry brigade, as saying: "I feel hurt and betrayed; they stabbed me in the back after what I gave to the country. The army was looking for someone to blame for the whole world to see and chose soldiers who did nothing wrong."
DCI-Palestine strongly rejects any suggestion that this trial might be symbolic or tokenistic. The use of civilians, especially children, as human shields is clearly prohibited by applicable international law and by Israel's domestic legislation. Israel is party to the CRC Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, which it ratified in 2005, the same year the Israeli High Court of Justice banned the use of civilians as human shields. Yet violations of the Protocol and the High Court ruling continue seemingly unchecked, as Israel’ Supreme Court is clearly unable or unwilling to enforce its own ruling, and the Israeli government refuses to implement the Protocol in the OPT.
Accountability for such crimes is long overdue, and this trial should set a precedent for all other human shield incidents involving children.