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The illusion of change in the West Bank military courts

Positive developments in the treatment of minors by Israeli security forces are overshadowed by partial and half-hearted implementation.

By Gerard Horton

Israeli soldiers blindfold and arrest a young Palestinian man in Hebron. (photo: Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers blindfolding and arresting a young Palestinian youth in Hebron. (photo: Activestills.org)

In March 2013, UNICEF recommended that all children detained by the Israeli military in the West Bank must be given written information about their rights, including the right to silence and prompt access to a lawyer, at the time of arrest. This followed a finding by the UN agency that the ill-treatment of children detained in the system was “widespread, systematic and institutionalized.” In response, the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that it would “study [the recommendations] and work to implement them through on-going cooperation with UNICEF.”

Two years on, Military Court Watch has documented a case in which a minor was actually provided with a written document which included information about his legal rights while in custody. However, when the circumstances of the case are considered in greater detail, this development is less than positive and suggests that the military authorities are either unwilling or unable to implement UNICEF’s recommendations in good faith.

According to a testimony provided by the 15-year-old youth from the al-Arroub refugee camp, the military came for him at 2.30 a.m. on April 7. After waking the family and checking ID cards, the youth was bound, blindfolded and taken away. The youth was not informed of his legal rights at this time as recommended by UNICEF. After being transferred on the floor of a military vehicle and physically assaulted, the youth was interrogated on two occasions at the police station in Etzion settlement.

The first interrogation was conducted at 9.00 a.m. by an unidentified individual in civilian clothes. According to the testimony, this individual did not inform the youth of his rights and proceeded to physically assault and verbally abuse the 15 year old in an attempt to obtain a confession. Following the first interrogation the youth was passed on to a second interrogator.

Prior to questioning, the second interrogator provided the youth with a document written in both Arabic and Hebrew. Before the youth could finish reading the document the interrogator asked him to sign it as proof that he had been informed of his legal rights prior to questioning. The youth recalls that the document referred to his right to consult with a lawyer. It may have included information about other rights but the youth was not given the opportunity to read the document in its entirety before it was taken from him. Further, it appears that the document made no mention of the fact that the youth had previously been interrogated without being informed of his rights. Accordingly, any evidentiary use that might be made from this signed document has the potential to be both misleading and deceptive.

Although the use of double interrogations is not new, the provision of written notification of one’s rights whilst in custody appears to be a recent development. The sequence of events in which this occurs, however, suggests an absence of any genuine intention to inform minors of their legal rights in such a manner so as to enable them to be effectively exercised.

In 2014 the military authorities acknowledged that the detention of children in the West Bank had become “especially sensitive” with the potential to “inflict real harm on the legitimacy of Israel’s actions in the West Bank.” However, recent developments suggest that the military authorities are handling this “sensitive” issue as a public relations problem rather than anything more substantive.

Gerard Horton is a lawyer and co-founder of Military Court Watch. Gerard has worked on the issue of children prosecuted in the Israeli military courts for the past eight years and is the author of a number of leading reports on the subject.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Bar

      I think there could be a simple solution to the problem of arresting minors: arrest their parents.

      Yup, unless it’s a crime causing injury or death, for which they should be arrested, any time a person under 18 years of age engages in actions involving any form of violence – yes, rock-throwing counts – their parents should be apprehended and jailed. I am fairly certain that within a year or two, demonstrations will become extremely peaceful.

      Reply to Comment
      • BigCat

        Agreed, Bar. I also think that ordinary citizens can also play a very significant role in bringing an end to rock throwing by suing the parents of the minors involved. Those minors are between the age of 8 and majority age and their parents have civil liability for damage caused by the negligent, intentional, or criminal acts committed by their children. I think that hitting the wallets of mothers and the fathers of those children would be extremely effective in putting an end to the deadly phenomenon of rock throwing, because the parents are going to forfeit large sums of money they would otherwise use to provide a comfortable living for themselves and their children. Hit a man’s wallet and you have his full attention.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ginger Eis

      1. The right to remain silent is not a categorical right, but simply a right that protects the individual from self-incrimination and only for that purpose. Violation of this right means that only the self-incriminatory statements and the fruits thereof are inadmissible in any criminal proceeding of the specific person involved. Statements incriminating others are admissible. Beyond the protection against self-incrimination, there is – in law – no such thing as the right to remain silent.

      2. In all other Western countries it happens sometimes that the cops violate the right to remain silent in some instances. This is also the case in Israel. In all Western countries, the Courts take appropriate action when the right to remain silent is violated. This is also the case in Israel. The Israeli cops are – just like their Western counterparts – not perfect and when mistakes are made, Israeli Courts take appropriate action to protect the rights of the suspect. This article is thus much ado about nothing!

      3. Furthermore, this article makes a couple of other allegations against the Jewish State. What is interesting though, is this: (a) this article provided NO scintilla of evidence to support any of those allegations it put forward, (b) this article falsely creates the impression that certain practices allowed by International law and the laws of other Western countries (such cuffing the hands and the legs of criminal/security suspects in the United States, Germany, etc.) are illegal when Israel is working to prevent the murder of innocent Israeli kids, women and men by murderous Palestinian juvenile thugs as can be seen in the video provided below. This article is thus clearly grossly unfair to Israel and justifies the assertion that +972mag is a smear-machine against the Jewish State hosted by anti-Israel/anti-Jewish individuals who are funded by foreign governments hostile to the Jewish State.

      This video below is just as ONE of hundreds of examples of how Palestinian kids are organized to go and murder innocent people.

      Watch. And Weep!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xg1Gv7WjSkM&feature=youtu.be

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “The Israeli cops are – just like their Western counterparts – not perfect and when mistakes are made, Israeli Courts take appropriate action to protect the rights of the suspect.”

        Sorry, that won’t do. (1) These are not isolated mistakes. These are routine, entrenched practices authorized in high places. (2) Israeli courts are nothing like American courts in terms of being an independent, non-subservient branch and hewing to a Constitution. No way. If the American Congress even dared write some of the court-skirting and overriding laws the Right has tried to ram through the Knesset they’d be laughed out of town and would not ever try it in the first place.

        Reply to Comment
    3. BigCat

      “Prior to questioning, the second interrogator provided the youth with a document written in both Arabic and Hebrew”.

      Oh, wow, that’s proper procedure (in Australia, Canada, the US, etc. he would get it via oral translation in Arabic often by an interpreter he can’t see). Kudos to Israel!

      “Before the youth could finish reading the document the interrogator asked him to sign it as proof that he had been informed of his legal rights prior to questioning. The youth recalls that the document referred to his right to consult with a lawyer. It may have included information about other rights but the youth was not given the opportunity to read the document in its entirety before it was taken from him”

      It seems pretty clear that “the youth” has pretty detailed knowledge of the contents of the documents he signed and was properly informed of his rights, because the information regarding “the right to consult with a lawyer” is usually in the last paragraph of the document informing detainees of their rights.

      “Further, it appears that the document made no mention of the fact that the youth had previously been interrogated without being informed of his rights. Accordingly, any evidentiary use that might be made from this signed document has the potential to be both misleading and deceptive”.

      No so. The document is not required to- and does not have to mention the youth ALLEGEDLY “had previously been interrogated without being informed of his rights”. That is not done in the United States and other Western countries, including Israel and it serves no purpose.

      Reply to Comment
      • BigCat

        ‘Not so…’ was meant in the last paragraph (and not “no so..”)

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        You quite conveniently started your exercise in legal evasion at the start of the second interview. But aside from the second interview and its problems, something tells me you would not want your own 15-year-old son treated the way this kid was treated from 02:30 to 09:00 and from 09:00 until the second interview. I think you would find a massive number of flaws in the process. But he’s only an Arab, is that it? You posters here are an interesting display in heartlessness. You can meander on all you want in a coldly nitpicking lawyerly fashion but the message between the lines is heartlessness and double standards and an attitude of “what can we get away with?” Go to it tiger.

        Reply to Comment
        • BigCat

          Brian….eh.. “Ben”, I guess you are alluding to this:

          “The first interrogation was conducted at 9.00 a.m. by an unidentified individual in civilian clothes. According to the testimony, this individual did not inform the youth of his rights and proceeded to physically assault and verbally abuse the 15 year old in an attempt to obtain a confession”.

          Question to you Brian:

          Do you have any evidence to support the above malicious fantasy produced and brought to you by pallywood? If you do, pls. present your evidence. We are waiting……

          Btw. Brian,
          did you watch the video provided by Ginger above? I am sure you did. Now, I am not extremely older than your “15yrs old youth”, and even when I was 15yrs, I could never dare try to go murder innocent men, women and children. When I have a “15yrs old son”, who tries to murder other people, the least of my worries would be that he was not instructed of his right to remain silent before being interrogated.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Now, I am not extremely older than your “15yrs old youth””

            It shows. Explains a lot. Thanks.

            Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            Evidence, moron, evidence!

            If you have the evidence, pls. provide it. Quit looking for a face-saving way out! We are STILL waiting……

            Reply to Comment