Press Release: Metropolitan Police asked to investigate British citizens that join the IDF

The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) has asked the Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes Unit to investigate British citizens who join the IDF, as part of the Mahal volunteer programme, for suspected international crimes. To read the official press release, click here.

18th July 2022

LONDON – On 1st June 2022, the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command which includes the War Crimes Team was asked to open an investigation into British citizens joining the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). The request was made by the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) who raised concerns about British citizens recruited to the IDF to take part in Israeli military operations in full combat roles through the Mahal volunteer programme. Given the range of grave criminal acts and international crimes that are committed in Israel/Palestine by the IDF, it is highly likely that these Britons could be actively involved in war crimes as part of their recruitment duties.

The Metropolitan Police have actively investigated British citizens who have fought in other jurisdictions, however, to-date, the ICJP are not aware of any Britons who joined the IDF being investigated by the Metropolitan Policy.

The ICJP are requesting that Scotland Yard identify, investigate and potentially prosecute British citizens who are alleged to have participated in international crimes under the UK’s counter terrorism legislation. The S015 War Crimes Unit have acknowledged receipt of the request, which is currently under their review.

The dossier submitted by the ICJP contains details of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including but not limited to, breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention allegedly committed at times when Britons were serving in the IDF. These include torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, the use of ‘human shields’ and unlawful killings, collective punishment, blocking of humanitarian relief and medical assistance, and the destruction of property without military necessity.

The UK Government’s position on, and approach to, dealing with other British citizens that fight abroad as part of government and non-governmental forces is that individuals should (a) not do so, and (b) could face prosecution on their return to the UK.

The ICJP contends that it is an indisputable fact that members of the IDF have committed or been involved in war crimes or acts that fall foul of national counter terrorism legislation. The evidence points to it being highly likely that British citizens joining those forces for extended periods may have themselves committed crimes which are contrary to UK law and the British Government’s international obligations.

Notably, the ICJP have not been able to identify a single case in which the authorities have:

  1. Investigated whether any British citizen, currently participating in or supporting Israeli military action, has been involved in international crimes and terrorism;
  2. Investigated any person who has entered the UK after potentially participating in international crimes as part of the IDF;
  3. Discouraged individuals from joining Mahal due to the likelihood that they could become involved in international criminal and/or terrorist activity; and
  4. Intervened to safeguard British citizens from radicalisation which would lead to them committing international crimes or terrorist activities as part of the Israeli security forces.

Each of these steps has been taken in respect to individuals that travelled to Syria, and some of these steps have been taken in respect of individuals who have or intend to travel to Ukraine. Although there have been petitions to parliament and statements by politicians on the impartial application of this policy with regard to Israel and the IDF, as far as we are aware, this is the first legal submission sent to S015 from lawyers demanding that counter-terrorism legislation and policy is applied in a non-discriminatory way.

Rhys Davies, a British international criminal law Barrister said, “Scotland Yard is currently concerned by British citizens travelling to fight in Ukraine. Prior to this, focus has been on individuals travelling abroad to fight in Syria. It is important that these issues also demand attention. British citizens training and fighting in Israel and Palestine should also be the subject of investigation, in order to ensure this country’s obligations under international law are met.”

Yuval Joyce Shalev, the ICJP caseworker and analyst who worked on the dossier stated, “As a matter of principle, Scotland Yard should see to it more forcefully that British nationals who chose to join the IDF and fight in full combat roles are investigated just as those who join other foreign military forces are. The lack of application of this policy to those who join the IDF betrays a truth about British policy on Israel: it is, on the whole, woefully lenient. Those who go abroad of their own volition and perpetrate international crimes and terrorism must be prosecuted, irrespective of their religious or ethnic background.”