Military Police Failed to Prevent Suicide of Soldier-turned-informant in Drug Case, Prosecutors Say

Israeli soldier told investigators he was in distress and wanted to back out, a concern they ignored, court papers show

Illustration: A Military Police soldier stands outside a military court at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, June 26, 2016.
Nir Kafri

Two Israeli Military Police investigators have been charged with not reporting on the psychological distress of a soldier they tried to recruit as an informer against his friends, who later committed suicide. The indictments filed on Thursday charged the men, who had recently completed their compulsory military duty, with providing false reports, disobeying orders and improper behavior.

In January, the accused summoned the late combat soldier in the Givati infantry brigade who was in a squad commanders training course at the time, to the Military Police base in Be’er Sheva to see about recruiting him as a source of information about drug offenses relating to friends in his unit, the indictment says.

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At the time, defendant A., who cannot be further identified, was training the second defendant, P, who was alone with the soldier for most of their meeting, which was in violation of orders requiring the presence of the trainer, A., at all times. At the end of the meeting, when A. was not in the room, the soldier signed a document in which he agreed to provide information to the investigators.

An hour and a half later, the soldier called P. and asked to be released from the agreeement. He expressed psychological distress and asked to meet with a mental health officer. P. told him that he understood him and then called A., told him about the conversation and said he thought the soldier was considering committing suicide and would not agree to be a source. A. did not take the matter seriously.

Both men were charged with failing to report about the soldier’s psychological distress even though they were required to do so. The soldier called P. again the next day and told him he hoped the Military Police would change the ways operated – and P. said he would keep their conversation confidential. But when they finished talking, P. sent A. a recording of the conversation.

The soldier was reported missing the next day. The commander of both military police officers and their colleagues joined a search party for the soldier, and the commander of the Military Police investigators in Be’er Sheva even spoke to P. about it, but did not report his fears that the soldier may harm himself. Later P. and A. acknowledged concerns to one another, saying they had made a mistake in failing to report on the soldier’s distress, yet they still did nothing about it.

The soldier’s body was found a few hours later near his base.

The soldier’s family said they were “shocked and disappointed” by the crimes and alleged that the Military Advocate General’s Corps had not taken responsibility for the series of actions that had led the soldier to take his own life. The family says their son was summoned by the Military Police on false pretenses and for two hours he was threatened with prison, for him and his friends in the unit, if he failed to cooperate with investigators.

“He was threatened not to tell his family, friends of commanders. Under this enormous pressure, he gave in to their demands – against his conscience,” family members said, adding that "if only they had listened to him and not tried to break his spirit, and if they had not hidden this information from their commanders – even during the search for the soldier – he would still be alive."