Former IDF deputy chief and reserve general Uzi Dayan took the stand on Monday in defense of Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier charged with manslaughter in the killing of a Palestinian terrorist in Hebron in March.
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During his testimony, Dayan said that "Azaria's right to innocence was trampled on. My basic argument is that a fighter, even if he made a mistake and if he sinned, you don’t move it on to a criminal trial unless there's good reason. A good reason – if the commission of inquiry finds that there was malice."
Dayan noted that in his years of service, he did not allow military police to investigate operational incidents. "I'm not claiming that military police can't investigate, I'm saying that the military police doesn’t have the tools to investigate an operational incident. If during the investigation it becomes clear that there were offenses such as looting, robbery and sexual assault, then military police needs to investigate." He added, "In my opinion, military police doesn’t have the experience or even the authority to investigate operational activities."
Speaking of his time as the head of the army's Central Command, Dayan noted that "Even though I didn’t ask for a military police investigation, of course that according to army laws, the military prosecutor is allowed to order an investigation. I think that military police shouldn’t investigate it. I'm against military police investigating, unless there's no choice."
Asked by the prosecutor, Gen. (res.) Nadav Weisman, if the rules of engagement don’t prohibit killing a terrorist just for being a terrorist, Dayan answered, "That's certainly not true. The relevant thing is the instructions given to carry out the task. I've ordered to kill terrorists just because they're terrorists, regardless of their condition, whether they are dangerous or not.
"The rules of engagement are correct if you're not on a specific task, and you need to consider whether lives are in danger, et cetera. Terrorists – they should be killed. In any situation or condition? No, that's correct. But as for the question whether terrorists are sentenced to die, the answer is yes."
Dan Biton, the former IDF deputy chief and Central Command head and the previous head of the army's technology and logistics division, is also scheduled to take the stand in defense of Azaria