TEL AVIV (Apr. 9)
A special military court on Monday found Israel Defense Force Col. Yehuda Meir guilty of brutality for ordering his troops to break the arms and legs of Palestinian villagers in their custody during the early days of the intifada.
The incident occurred in January 1988, shortly after the Palestinian uprising began. The detainees came from Beita and Huwara villages in the Nablus area of the West Bank, where disturbances had occurred.
Meir, forced to take early retirement when the incident became widely publicized last year, is the highest-ranking IDF officer to be convicted of misconduct related to the intifada.
Sentencing is expected in two weeks.
The court found that while he was not present at the beatings, the colonel specifically instructed soldiers in his command to break the Palestinians’ limbs in punishment for alleged rioting.
“The defendant’s acts were unprecedented,” the 50-page verdict said. It found Meir guilty of “ordering the cold use of force executed by subordinates who thought it was the army’s policy.”
The panel of judges rejected Meir’s defense plea that he was acting on the orders of his superiors stemming from explicit instructions of then Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin to “break the bones” of violent offenders.
“We have not been convinced that the order to beat bound men rounded up from their homes came from anyone but the defendant,” the judges stated in their verdict.
The court conceded that while Rabin did direct senior officers of the Central Command to administer severe beatings to rioters, his instructions applied to those caught in the midst of disturbances.
Subsequent punishment while in custody was not authorized, the judges said. Even if Meir heard such instructions from his superiors, he was “obligated to resist them because the orders were patently illegal.”