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Resource: Presumed guilty from the get-go

Military courts have operated in the occupied territories since the Israeli occupation began in 1967. To date, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been brought before these courts. The following B’Tselem report focuses on one of the central aspects in the work of the military justice system: remand in custody pending end of proceedings.

With the exception of individuals tried for traffic violations, remanding Palestinian defendants in custody for the duration of the proceedings is the rule rather than the exception. One of the outcomes of this policy is that the vast majority of military court cases end in plea bargains. Defendants prefer to avoid a lengthy trial while in custody, knowing that they risk spending more time behind bars than the prison sentence they would receive in a plea bargain.

In effect, the case is decided at the time the remand is approved rather than on the basis of evidence against the defendant.

B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories was established in 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members. It endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel.

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    1. Pedro X

      If it was a matter of innocence, the Palestinians on principal would not make plea deals for early release but would do the time and go to trial. The fact is that the majority of sentences given are very light and the Palestinian authority often pays the fine imposed by the court.

      What this article fails to mention is that one of the consideration for judicial interim release is the likelihood the the accused will re-offend before trial. In the Palestinian territories given the continual riots and rock attacks this possibility is very high and warns against release.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        “Defendants prefer to avoid a lengthy trial while in custody, knowing that they risk spending more time behind bars than the prison sentence they would receive in a plea bargain.”

        Here in the U.S. the last year has seen a lot of media coverage on how the justice system wrings plea bargains from innocent people; this is a staple theme of TV crime dramas.


        Trials are rare. Only 3 to 5 percent of criminal cases go to trial – the rest are plea bargained. Most African Americans defendants never get a trial. Most plea bargains consist of promise of a longer sentence if a person exercises their constitutional right to trial. As a result, people caught up in the system, as the American Bar Association points out, plead guilty even when innocent. Why? As one young man told me recently, “Who wouldn’t rather do three years for a crime they didn’t commit than risk twenty-five years for a crime they didn’t do?”

        Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          Hey Bruce, so how come you are not fighting for righting the wrongs in your own country?

          Why are you here comparing what is wrong in your home which is not in a war situation with it’s African American citizens, to our situation in which we are still in a 100 year war with Palestinian Arabs who want to murder us whenever they can?

          There was no “occupation” 100 years ago but the Palestinian Arabs were still murdering us whenever they could!

          Reply to Comment