Israel uses two kinds of proceedings to imprison Palestinian residents of the West Bank: criminal and administrative. Actually fairly similar, as no genuine legal proceeding is undertaken in either case, the one major difference is that criminal proceedings culminate in a finite prison sentence, whereas administrative detention can be extended indefinitely. In five cases from the past two years, B’Tselem found that the military eliminated even this difference, imposing administrative detention on prisoners on the last day of their court-mandated sentence.
Every year, Israel arrests and detains hundreds of Palestinian minors, routinely and systematically violating their rights throughout: during arrest and interrogation, and at the military juvenile court. The minors undergo this process completely alone, cut off from their family and without legal counsel. Israel boasts of changes instituted in the military juvenile justice system in recent years, claiming significant improvement to the protections afforded minors. In practice, these changes have not helped safeguard minors’ rights and are no more than superficial matters of form designed to legitimize the military justice system and the occupation regime.
On 13 June 2016 Bilal Kayed finished serving a 14½-year prison sentence. His waiting family was then told that he was not being released, and was being placed in administrative detention for six months. Administrative detention is based on classified “evidence” that is not revealed to the detainee, so he cannot refute it, and has no maximum time limit. While Israel has long and widely used this draconian measure, imposing administrative detention immediately after a long prison sentence is exceptionally harsh. Yet the military judges - who are an integral part of the mechanisms of occupation - approved it even in this case.
On 9 Feb. 2016, D.W., 12, was detained at the entrance to the settlement of Carmei Tzur while carrying a concealed knife. D. signed a plea bargain and was convicted of attempted manslaughter and sentenced to imprisonment for 4½ months. She was completely alone during the trial and the prosecution was not required to present any evidence. Though exceptional, this case illustrates the manner in which the military judicial system tramples defendants’ rights. Instead of ensuring that justice is done, this system seeks to preserve the occupation regime.
Sleep deprivation; prolonged binding; verbal and sometimes physical abuse; exposure to heat and cold; poor, meager food; small, foul-smelling cells; solitary confinement; unhygienic conditions. A new report by HaMoked and B’Tselem shows these to be standard in interrogations at Israel Security Agency’s (ISA) facility at Shikma Prison. The report is based on affidavits and testimonials by 116 Palestinians interrogated there from Aug. 2013 to March 2014, including at least 14 who had been interrogated under torture by the Palestinian Authority shortly before. The ISA’s interrogation system is run with the approval of Israeli authorities, including the High Court of Justice.
A new report B’Tselem published today indicates that remand in custody is the rule rather than the exception for Palestinian defendants. Most cases, therefore, end in plea bargains. To all intents and purposes, the Israeli military court appears to be a court like any other. There are prosecutors and defense attorneys. There are rules of procedure, laws and regulations. There are judges who hand down rulings and verdicts couched in reasoned legal language. Nonetheless, this façade of propriety masks one of the most injurious apparatuses of the occupation. The rules of Israeli law, ostensibly applied to the military court, have been rendered essentially meaningless - merely serving to whitewash the flaws of the military court system.
Since Nov. 2009, B’Tselem has received testimonies from dozens of Palestinian minors alleging that they were subjected to threats and violence, sometimes amounting to torture, under interrogation at the Gush Etzion police station. They claimed that the violence was used in order to force them into confessing to alleged offenses, mostly stone-throwing. Given the severity of these claims, the DIP and the Israel Police must examine the issue systemically, and not make do with the investigations opened into several particular cases following B’Tselem’s complaints. If the claims are substantiated, they must take immediate action to stop the illegal conduct and take legal and administrative measures against those responsible.
On 9 Jan. '12, an Israeli Military Youth Court judge held that a confession given to the police by a 14-year-old Palestinian boy suspected of stone-throwing was admissible, although the minor's rights had clearly been breached under Israel’s Youth Law. In doing so, Judge Rivlin-Ahai forwent an important opportunity to set a standard for protecting the rights of Palestinian minors interrogated by police.
On 30 Nov. '11, the military court in Ofer ruled that a confession given by Ayman Hamidah during an ISA (Shabak) interrogation was inadmissible, since it had not been given willingly. In an unusual step, the court acquitted Hamidah of the charges that were based solely on the confession. In fact, the interrogation methods that Hamidah described have been used against hundreds of Palestinians, and are classified in international law as torture or maltreatment, which are absolutely prohibited.
Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end the occupation, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.