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Israeli commission recommends changes to war crimes’ assessments

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The military should form special units to investigate operational incidents, an Israeli panel formed in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident said in its second report.

The Turkel Commission in its 1,000-page report presented Wednesday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said that Israeli military investigations into war crimes’ claims meet international standards.

The report included 19 recommendations for improving the system of reviewing and investigating possible war crimes.

It found problems with the security and defense establishment’s decision-making process that led to the decision to board the Marmara in international waters.

The suggested special investigative units for operational incidents would be in lieu of internal inquiries in a particular military unit.   

Among other recommendations, the panel said the Shin Bet security service should videotape interrogations and that complaints against the Shin Bet should be investigated by the police rather than internally.

The commission was formed in the wake of the deaths of nine Turkish activists aboard the Gaza-bound Turkish protest vessel the Mavi Marmara in May 2010. Its original report found that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza and its raid on the Marmara were both legal under international law.

After receiving the report from retired Justice Joseph Turkel, Netanyahu said he welcomed the commission’s determination that the investigation mechanisms in Israel generally operate in accordance with the standards set in international law.

"We will consider the areas in which the Commission has made recommendations regarding changes and improvements," he said. "The establishment of the Commission and the mandate that it received underscore how determined we are to continue operating according to international standards. This is despite the fact that we must deal, in various spheres, with terrorist organizations that rudely trample on the principles of international law."

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