TIMES OF ISRAELISRAEL YET TO PROVE BANNED PALESTINIAN GROUPSHAVE TERROR TIES, SAYS TOP EU DIPLOMAT18 NOVEMBER 2021
Josep Borrell: ‘We are asking for answers from the Israeli government, and we have not yet received convincing answers’
European Union High Representative Josep Borrell declared on Wednesday that Israel had yet to send definitive proof that six recently banned Palestinian organizations were linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group.
“We are asking for answers from the Israeli government, and we have not yet received convincing answers,” Borrell said in a closed-door meeting of international donors to the Palestinians in Oslo.
Borrell’s speech, like others given at the conference, was not public. The Times of Israel received a transcript of the address from another official.
Israel declared the six civil groups to be PFLP-linked terror groups in late October. The announcement sparked a firestorm of coverage and condemnations, as most of them received European and international funding.
Israeli officials have doubled down on the designation, repeating that there is “ironclad” classified evidence that proves the organizations’ terror li
“We need proof of these claims,” Borrell said in his remarks on Wednesday, according to the transcript.
An EU spokesperson declined to comment on the closed-door speech, citing departmental regulations.
The six Palestinian organizations in question — al-Haq, Addameer, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Defense for Children International – Palestine, Bisan, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees — are prominent and well-established groups.
In late October, Defense Minister Benny Gantz issued orders that classified all six as terror groups. After an investigation by the Shin Bet, Israeli authorities alleged that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine had used the organizations to successfully channel funds from European donors to the terror group.
The PFLP, which avowedly seeks to destroy Israel, has a long history of violent attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians. The United States, the European Union, and much of the international community classify it as a terrorist organization.
Israeli officials have pointed to previous convictions of high-ranking members of the nonprofits — including al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin — for belonging to the PFLP.
The Palestinian nonprofits strongly dispute the charges against them, accusing Israel of seeking to crack down on criticism of its policies.
“They may be able to close us down. They can seize our funding. They can arrest us. But they cannot stop our firm and unshakeable belief that this occupation must be held accountable for its crimes,” Jabarin told The Times of Israel following the announcement.
United Nations watchdogs slammed the decision, saying it was arbitrary and capricious.
“The organizations…face far-reaching consequences as a result of this arbitrary decision, as do the people who fund them and work with them,” said United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
“The crucial work they perform for thousands of Palestinians risks being halted or severely restricted,” she added.
A classified Israeli dossier that sought to detail links between the Palestinian groups and the PFLP also failed to convince European countries to stop funding the groups, according to the left-wing Israeli website Local Call.
“If substantiated evidence were to be provided that any beneficiary has made an inappropriate use of EU funds, the EU would take action to recover these funds,” a European Union spokesperson said in a statement in late October.
But Brussels stressed that previous Israeli charges had not been proven to their satisfaction.
“Past allegations of the misuse of EU funds in relation to certain Palestinian [civil society] partners have not been substantiated,” the EU spokesperson said.
EINDE BERICHT THE TIMES OF ISRAEL
BBCPALESTINIAN GROUPS BRANDED TERRORISTS BY ISRAELSAY THEY ARE BEING SILENCED29 OCTOBER 2021
The leaders of six Palestinian civil society organisations branded terrorist groups by Israel say the move will harm human rights unless it is reversed.
Last week Israel declared that the groups were a front for a militant faction which has committed deadly attacks against it since the 1960s.
Israeli envoys with access to secret intelligence were due in Washington this week to explain the decision.
It shocked international donors and divided Israel’s own ruling coalition.
The six groups identified were:
- Defence for Children International – Palestine
- Bisan Center for Research and Development
- Union of Agricultural Work Committees
- Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees
Israeli defence minister Benny Gantz accused the groups – which all receive foreign aid – of diverting funds to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a charge they strongly reject.
The PFLP, a small, left-wing group that does not recognise the State of Israel, carried out a number of armed attacks and aircraft hijackings in the 1960s and ’70s. It was also behind several suicide attacks during the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) in the early 2000s.
This is a ridiculous narrative, a ridiculous accusation,” said al-Haq’s director, Shawan Jabarin, suggesting that Israel had failed to silence rights groups challenging its occupation of Palestinian Territories through other means.
“I think it is the last bullet in their hands and this is a political bullet because it has no legal basis and no security basis. I challenge them to prove what they said,” he added.
Al-Haq is the most well-established Palestinian human rights group, which routinely highlights violations by Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group which controls Gaza.
The leaders of the groups spoke on Friday at an online event organised by Human Rights Watch, the Carter Center and others.
“They are trying to illegalise us to make the international community fear communicating with us,” said Sahar Francis, director of Addameer which promotes the rights of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, adding that work with Israeli NGOs and individuals would be most affected.
With the activities of the groups now effectively outlawed by Israel, in principle their offices can be closed, their assets seized and their staff arrested.
The US State Department said that it had not been told in advance about the terrorist designation and that it would ask Israel to explain its reasoning.
On Tuesday, US spokesman Ned Price said: “We believe that respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and a strong independent civil society are critically important to democracy,” in what was interpreted by some as a rebuke.
The European Union said it took the Israeli move “very seriously” and would seek further details from the Israeli authorities, in a statement on Thursday.
The EU exercises “maximum diligence” to avoid financing or supporting terrorist groups, the statement read, noting that past allegations by Israel that Palestinian civil society groups were misusing EU funds “have not been substantiated.”
The United Nations, Israeli human rights groups and also international rights groups have strongly condemned the decision by the Israeli Ministry of Defence.
The PA has denounced it as a “grave violation of international law.”
Despite the fierce criticism, Mr Gantz and senior security officials have not wavered. One official speaking to Israeli news site Walla said there was “ironclad” intelligence gathered about the organisations, including “unequivocal evidence including videos, photos, receipts for money transfers, and more” proving direct links to the PFLP.
However, the defence minister has continued to come under fire from within Israel’s government – a fragile eight-party alliance that relies on the support of leftist politicians.
Health minister Nitzan Horowitz, who heads dovish Meretz, cautioned that as an occupying military power Israel needed to be “very careful in imposing sanctions on Palestinian civil organisations because there are political, diplomatic and, more importantly, human rights consequences”.
Labour leader and transport minister Merav Michaeli said the way the announcement was made “caused Israel great damage with our greatest and most important friends”.
EINDE BBC BERICHT
THE HAARETZTHE NGO’S ISRAEL DESIGNATED AS TERROR GROUPS REMAINLEGAL IN THE WEST BANK
The government’s controversial decision on six Palestinian organizations doesn’t apply in the West Bank, and a military decree that would change that hasn’t been issued. A security source told Haaretz that the main objective of labeling them as terrorist organizations was to hamper their fundraising
The six Palestinian civil society organizations that Defense Minister Benny Gantz declared to be terrorist organizations can still legally operate in the West Bank, where they are registered and are active. For an organization to be declared a “disallowed association” in the West Bank, the commander of the IDF’s Central Command must issue an order, but the office said that no such order was issued.
This means the six nongovernmental groups in question remain legal the West Bank and are outlawed only in Israel, which implies that Israel cannot try their employees at military tribunals just for working there, among other things. Sources at the State Prosecutor’s Office have already conceded that they do not intend to file indictments against the organizations or their workers.
The Counter-Terrorism Bureau, which designated the NGOs as terror organizations on October 22, was created in 2018 with the goal of coordinating activities against the financial infrastructure of terror groups. It acts under the power of authorities vested in the Counter-Terrorism Law of 2016 and is headed by Paul Landes. The Defense Ministry said that the organizations act on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and that they served to finance it. It added that they received large sums from European countries and international organizations through a variety of fraudulent methods, which were then used to promote terrorism, recruit operatives and pay them salaries, and pay stipends to families of security prisoners and terrorists.
The statement further claimed that many operatives of the Popular Front are employed at those six organizations “in field and management roles, including operatives who were involved in terrorist activities.” A security source told Haaretz that the main objective of labeling them as terrorist organizations was to hamper their fundraising, as “the European countries will understand where the money is going.”
“Israeli governments’ long history of attempts to financially suffocate Palestinian civil society organizations – including direct appeals to donor countries demanding they cease funding them – shows that the motive to harm them is their political activity,” said Michael Sfard, the legal counsel to several human rights groups in Israel. “This declaration is also meant to stop them from politically and legally challenging the occupation. Accusing them of terror ties is just cover.”
Some of the groups on the list are human rights organizations, including Addameer, which offers legal aid to prisoners, collects data about arrests and administrative detentions and works to stop torture; Al-Haq, which documents violations of Palestinian rights in the Palestinian Territories; and the Palestine branch of Defense for Children International, which tracks the killing of children and the condition of children arrested in Israel. The other organizations are civil society organizations: The Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which helps Palestinian farmers, mostly in Area C of the West Bank; the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees; and the Bisan Center for Research and Development.
EINDE BERICHT THE HAARETZ
AL HAQ EN BTSELEM
Al-Haq en B’Tselem ontvingen op 13 maart 2009 de Geuzenpenning. B’Tselem is een Israëlische en Al-Haq is een Palestijnse mensenrechtenorganisatie.
Jozias van Aartsen reikte de penningen uit. De burgemeester van Den Haag, de internationale stad van vrede en recht, is voorzitter van de City-Diplomacy-commissie van United Cities and Local Governments. Hij was minister van Buitenlandse Zaken in de periode 1998-2002.
Al-Haq en B’Tselem zijn onafhankelijke organisaties, die de activiteiten van de Israëlische overheid en de Palestijnse Autoriteit kritisch volgen. De nadruk van de werkzaamheden van Al-Haq en B’Tselem ligt op het rapporteren van schendingen van de Palestijnse mensenrechten in de Bezette Gebieden. Tijdens de uitreiking spraken Jessica Montell van B’Tselem en Wesam Ahmad van Al-Haq dankwoorden uit. Aan het eind van de ceremonie werd contact gemaakt via skype met Ramallah, waardoor ook de directeur van Al-Haq, Shawan Jabarin, de aanwezigen kon toespreken in de Grote Kerk van Vlaardingen. Shawan Jabarin kon vanwege een uitreisverbod van de Israëlische overheid niet naar Vlaardingen komen.
Recht en menselijke waardigheid
Al-Haq betekent in het Arabisch ‘het recht’. Een groep Palestijnse advocaten heeft de organisatie in 1979 opgericht. Het kantoor van Al-Haq is gevestigd in Ramallah. Het woord B’Tselem komt uit het Bijbelse scheppingsverhaal en betekent in modern Hebreeuws ‘menselijke waardigheid’. Academici, advocaten, journalisten en leden van het Israëlische parlement hebben de organisatie in 1989 opgericht. Het kantoor van B’Tselem is gevestigd in Jeruzalem.
Betrouwbare aanpak Al-Haq
Al-Haq werkt met veldwerkers in de regio om te onderzoeken waar mensenrechten worden geschonden. De organisatie streeft naar het afnemen van accurate verklaringen ‘onder ede’ van de slachtoffers zelf of van ooggetuigen. Al-Haq is aangesloten bij de Internationale Commissie van Juristen te Genève.
Al-Haq ageert via nationale en internationale campagnes tegen schendingen van mensenrechten door Israël en de Palestijnse Autoriteit en richt zich daarbij tot de VN, de EU en andere staten die niet betrokken zijn bij het conflict. Ook verzorgt Al-Haq training voor Palestijnse rechtshandhavingsinstanties en maatschappelijke organisaties op het gebied van mensenrechten. De organisatie pleit voor integratie van de internationale mensenrechtennormen in Palestijnse wetgeving.
Enkele resultaten van Al-Haq
Al-Haq heeft in 2008 haar activiteiten voortgezet ter verbetering van de verslechterende situatie in de bezette Palestijnse gebieden, met name de humanitaire crisis in de Gazastrook. Behalve het rapporteren over schendingen door Israëlische autoriteiten heeft Al-Haq de aandacht gevestigd op interne Palestijnse schendingen via rapporten en persconferenties over willekeurige gevangenschap en marteling door de Palestijnse Autoriteit en Palestijnse facties. Ook heeft Al-Haq zich ingespannen om via buitenlandse rechtspraak diegenen die verantwoordelijk zijn voor schendingen van Palestijnse mensenrechten ter verantwoording te roepen. Al-Haq trainde Palestijnse niet-gouvernementele organisaties in het gebruik van het Universal Periodic Review-mechanisme ofwel periodieke onderzoeken naar de mensenrechtensituaties van VN-lidstaten. Al-Haq hielp de Palestijnse niet-gouvernementele organisaties bij het indienen van hun bevindingen bij de VN-Mensenrechtenraad.
In 2008 heeft Al-Haq eveneens het inzicht vergroot in het verband tussen Israëlische oorlogsmisdaden van ruim vier decennia geleden en de misdaden die tegenwoordig worden gepleegd. De documentaire ‘Memory of the Cactus’ en bijbehorend juridisch onderzoek vertellen het verhaal van drie Palestijnse dorpen in de Latroun-enclave op de Westelijke Jordaanoever die met de grond werden gelijkgemaakt toen Israël het gebied bezette. De inwoners van die dorpen zijn tot op heden ontheemd en mogen daar niet terugkeren, terwijl Israëlische burgers op diezelfde plek, het ‘Canada Park’ van het Joodse Nationale Fonds, nu genieten van barbecues en picknicks, onbewust van de misdaden die daar uit hun naam zijn gepleegd. De film ontving internationale erkenning met vertoningen over de hele wereld, onder andere in Canada, Groot-Brittannië, Ierland, Australië en de Verenigde Arabische Emiraten waar de film de prijs voor de beste documentaire won op het Dubai International Film Festival. De film heeft bijgedragen aan een beter bewustzijn van de voortgaande Israëlische politiek van bezetting om de Palestijnen van hun land te verdrijven en de herinneringen van het Palestijnse volk uit te wissen.
Vergroten van bewustwording door B’Tselem
B’Tselem is het Israelische informatiecentrum voor mensenrechten in de Bezette Gebieden. B’Tselem wil de Israëlische burgers en beleidsmakers informeren over de werkelijke mensenrechtensituatie in de Bezette Gebieden en een einde maken aan de schendingen van mensenrechten. B’Tselem werkt samen met de Israëlische autoriteiten aan het bevorderen van het afleggen van verantwoording, door te zorgen dat beschuldigingen van wangedrag door militairen of van overheidszijde onderzocht worden. De organisatie fungeert ook als betrouwbare informatiebron voor de internationale gemeenschap. Behalve het uitstekende onderzoek dat B’Tselem levert, is de organisatie ook koploper in het gebruik van nieuwe manieren om mensenrechten onder de aandacht te brengen.
Enkele resultaten van B’Tselem
Mede door het werk van B’Tselem is besloten om de kwestie rondom de afscheidingsbarrière te verwijzen naar het Internationaal Gerechtshof. Een ander resultaat van de inspanningen van B’Tselem is de uitspraak van het Israëlische Hooggerechtshof dat 30 kilometer muur van de barrière onrechtmatig geplaatst is en dat de regering verplicht is de schade die het berokkent aan de Palestijnen langs de gehele route opnieuw te beoordelen.
B’Tselem heeft ook een sleutelrol gespeeld in het afschaffen van huisafbraak als strafmaatregel. Als reactie op een rapport van B’Tselem hierover, stelde de Knesset Law Committee (rechtscommissie van het Israëlische parlement) een speciale commissie in. Deze commissie kwam in 2005 met de aanbeveling te stoppen met het slopen van huizen als strafmaatregel en te erkennen dat dergelijke afbraak de vijandigheid van de bevolking vergroot en schade toebrengt aan de internationale reputatie van Israël.
B’Tselem is verder als eerste begonnen met een innovatieve videostrategie om mensenrechten onder de aandacht te brengen. Er zijn 130 videocamera’s verdeeld onder Palestijnen in de ernstigste conflictgebieden. Zij hebben beelden vastgelegd van geweld gepleegd door kolonisten en soldaten, die de wereld hebben geschokt en uitgebreide kritiek op Israëls beleid hebben ontlokt. Het videomateriaal heeft de autoriteiten gedwongen om strafrechtelijk onderzoek te doen en vervolgingen in te stellen.
In oktober 1999 heeft het Hooggerechtshof van Israëlde methoden van fysiek geweld onwettig verklaard, die routinematig werden toegepast door de Algemene Veiligheidsdienst bij ondervragingen van Palestijnen. Deze praktijken zijn aan het licht gebracht door advocaten en verscheidene organisaties, die honderden van dit soort zaken voor de rechter brachten en de lokale en publieke opinie mobiliseerden tegen Israëls gebruik van marteling. B’Tselem heeft acht rapporten over dit onderwerp gepubliceerd en verscheen driemaal voor de VN-commissie tegen marteling.
Schendingen van mensenrechten
Het conflict tussen de Palestijnen en Israël is complex en schrijnend. Door aanvallen van Palestijnse gewapende groeperingen sterven jaarlijks tientallen Israëliërs en heerst er angst onder de bevolking. Het Palestijnse leed is veelomvattend. Israël heeft grote delen van de Westelijke Jordaanoever in bezit genomen voor de bouw en uitbreiding van Israëlische nederzettingen. De aanwezigheid van deze nederzettingen heeft er vervolgens toe geleid dat er nu in feite twee verschillende en discriminerende rechtssystemen zijn in hetzelfde gebied, waarbij de nationaliteit van een persoon bepaalt welke rechten en voordelen hij of zij heeft. In de afgelopen jaren werden duizenden Palestijnen gedood en nog eens duizenden zonder aanklacht gearresteerd. Israëlische soldaten en kolonisten die zich schuldig maakten aan ernstige misdrijven tegen Palestijnen, zoals mishandeling en aanvallen op bezittingen, werden nauwelijks gestraft. Bij Israëlische militaire operaties werden onschuldige Palestijnse burgers gedood.
Vooral de bewegingsvrijheid van de Palestijnen is ernstig beperkt. Honderden Israëlische militaire controleposten en wegblokkades op de Westelijke Jordaanoever beperken of verhinderen de Palestijnen om zich tussen steden en dorpen vrij te verplaatsen. De bouw van de 700 kilometer lange afscheidingsbarrière, voornamelijk op het grondgebied van de Westelijke Jordaanoever, beperkt de Palestijnse bewegingsvrijheid nog verder. Ook wierp de Israëlische regering in juni 2007 een niet eerder vertoonde blokkade in de Gazastrook op, die heeft geleid tot een ernstige humanitaire crisis. Er overleden Palestijnen, omdat ze de Gazastrook niet uit konden om naar een ziekenhuis te gaan voor een specialistische behandeling. VN-hulporganisaties klaagden dat de blokkade internationale hulpverlening moeilijk maakte. Als reactie op aanhoudende raketaanvallen op Israël door Hamas vanuit de Gazastrook startte Israël eind 2008 een militaire operatie tegen doelen van Hamas. Dit leidde tot veel Palestijnse doden en gewonden en een humanitaire crisis in de Gazastrook.
De Palestijnen zijn ook slachtoffer van schendingen van de mensenrechten door hun eigen gezagsdragers. Als gevolg van het interne politieke conflict en het geweld tussen de facties zijn er burgers gedood die er niet direct bij betrokken waren. Zowel Hamas in de Gazastrook als de Palestijnse Autoriteit op de Westelijke Jordaanoever heeft buitengerechtelijke straffen, willekeurige gevangenschap en marteling toegepast op politieke tegenstanders.
”The Israeli government’s plan to remove troops and Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip would not end Israel’s occupation of the territory. As an occupying power, Israel will retain responsibility for the welfare of Gaza’s civilian population.”
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
ISRAEL: ”DISENGAGEMENT” WILL NOT
END GAZA OCCUPATION
28 OCTOBER 2004
Israeli Government Still Holds Responsibility for Welfare of Civilians
The Israeli government’s plan to remove troops and Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip would not end Israel’s occupation of the territory. As an occupying power, Israel will retain responsibility for the welfare of Gaza’s civilian population.
Under the “disengagement” plan endorsed Tuesday by the Knesset, Israeli forces will keep control over Gaza’s borders, coastline and airspace, and will reserve the right to launch incursions at will. Israel will continue to wield overwhelming power over the territory’s economy and its access to trade.
“The removal of settlers and most military forces will not end Israel’s control over Gaza,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division. “Israel plans to reconfigure its occupation of the territory, but it will remain an occupying power with responsibility for the welfare of the civilian population.”
Under the plan, Israel is scheduled to remove settlers and military bases protecting the settlers from the Gaza Strip and four isolated West Bank Jewish settlements by the end of 2005. The Israeli military will remain deployed on Gaza’s southern border, and will reposition its forces to other areas just outside the territory.
In addition to controlling the borders, coastline and airspace, Israel will continue to control Gaza’s telecommunications, water, electricity and sewage networks, as well as the flow of people and goods into and out of the territory. Gaza will also continue to use Israeli currency.
A World Bank study on the economic effects of the plan determined that “disengagement” would ease restrictions on mobility inside Gaza. But the study also warned that the removal of troops and settlers would have little positive effect unless accompanied by an opening of Gaza’s borders. If the borders are sealed to labor and trade, the plan “would create worse hardship than is seen today.”
The plan also explicitly envisions continued home demolitions by the Israeli military to expand the “buffer zone” along the Gaza-Egypt border. According to a report released last week by Human Rights Watch, the Israeli military has illegally razed nearly 1,600 homes since 2000 to create this buffer zone, displacing some 16,000 Palestinians. Israeli officials have called for the buffer zone to be doubled, which would result in the destruction of one-third of the Rafah refugee camp.
In addition, the plan states that disengagement “will serve to dispel the claims regarding Israel’s responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” A report by legal experts from the Israeli Justice Ministry, Foreign Ministry and the military made public on Sunday, however, reportedly acknowledges that disengagement “does not necessarily exempt Israel from responsibility in the evacuated territories.”
If Israel removes its troops from Gaza, the Palestinian National Authority will maintain responsibility for security within the territory—to the extent that Israel allows Palestinian police the authority and capacity. Palestinian security forces will still have a duty to protect civilians within Gaza and to prevent indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians.
“Under international law, the test for determining whether an occupation exists is effective control by a hostile army, not the positioning of troops,” Whitson said. “Whether the Israeli army is inside Gaza or redeployed around its periphery and restricting entrance and exit, it remains in control.”
Under international law, the duties of an occupying power are detailed in the Fourth Geneva Convention and The Hague Regulations. According to The Hague Regulations, a “territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.”
Summary, July 2011
From the beginning of 2005 to the end of 2010, at least 835 Palestinian minors were arrested and tried in military courts in the West Bank on charges of stone throwing. Thirty-four of them were aged 12-13, 255 were 14-15, 546 were 16-17. Only one of the 835 was acquitted; all the rest were found guilty.
Palestinian minors charged with criminal offenses are tried under the military legislation applying in the West Bank, which grants them very few of the special rights relating to persons their age. These protections, such as separation from adults during detention and imprisonment, are not always maintained. The same is true regarding protections prescribed in the military legislation for all suspects that are especially important in the case of minors, such as the right to consult with an attorney. The military legislation dealing with minors does not conform to international and Israeli law, which acknowledge that the minor’s age affects his criminal responsibility and the manner in which he experiences arrest, interrogation, and imprisonment, and which assume that these experiences might harm the minor’s development. Consequently, under international law and Israeli law, suspected offenders who are minors are given special protections, their parents must be allowed to be present during their child’s interrogation, and their arrest and imprisonment are viewed as a last resort.
In November 2009, the Military Youth Court was established in the West Bank. The court was empowered to hear offenses committed by minors under age 16. The military judges, on their own initiative, expanded the jurisdiction of the court to cover all minors, i.e., up to age 18. A few judges expressed, in their judgments, their belief that the military justice system should try minors in accordance with the standard practice in juvenile courts around the world. The president of the Military Court of Appeals added that the military courts must operate in the spirit of the Israeli Youth Law, even though the Youth Law itself is not incorporated in the military legislation. Despite these declarations, institution of the Military Youth Court has brought limited change, and serious infringement of the rights of minors appearing before it continues.
In preparing this report, B’Tselem interviewed 50 minors, who described the events from the moment they were arrested to the time they were released from jail. Their testimonies indicate numerous serious violations of their rights, as follows:
- The arrest: Thirty of the minors said they were taken from their home by soldiers in the middle of the night and that their parents were not allowed to accompany them.
- The interrogation: Only three of the minors who were arrested at night said they were interrogated that night. Nineteen stated they were questioned the next morning, three were questioned in the afternoon, and two were not questioned until five days later. Only three of the minors who were arrested at night reported that they were given a reasonable chance to sleep prior to the interrogation, and five related that soldiers made a point of awakening them if they fell asleep while waiting for the interrogation. Nineteen also said they were treated violently and were threatened during the interrogation, and 23 said that they were not allowed, for many hours, to perform necessary functions, such as going to the bathroom, eating, and drinking.
- Remand until the end of proceedings: The military justice system does not have an alternative to remand until the end of proceedings as the Israeli law does. In the vast majority of cases, the judges order the minor held in custody until the end of the proceedings. Of the 133 minors who were prosecuted for stone throwing in cases handled by DCI-Palestine in 2009 and 2010, only 23 (17 percent) were released on bail pending their trial. As a result, many minors prefer to enter into a plea bargain, in which they confess to the charges against them in exchange for a shorter sentence, fearing that, if a trial is held, they would be kept in jail during the long period of time that it takes to complete the trial.
- Imprisonment: Imprisonment, rather than an alternative punishment, is the principal penalty chosen by the military courts. In the period 2005-2010, 93 percent of the minors convicted of stone throwing were given a prison sentence, its length ranging from a few days to 20 months. Nineteen minors under age 14, who accounted for 60 percent of this age group who were convicted of stone throwing during this period, were given a prison sentence. Under the law in Israel, incarceration of minors under age 14 is prohibited.
The age of the minor has a decisive effect on the length of the prison sentence: children under 14 on the day of sentencing served no more than two months’ imprisonment, 26 percent of minors aged 14-15 served sentences of four months and more, and among 16-17 year olds, 59 percent served a sentence of four months or more.
During their imprisonment, most of the minors interviewed by B’Tselem were not visited by their families. Of the 29 minors who were held in detention or were imprisoned for more than a week, only one said he had been visited regularly once every two weeks, and four others said they had been visited a few times. Being security prisoners, minors convicted of stone throwing are not allowed access to a telephone. The prison authorities enable them to study only some of the subjects they were taking at school, which reduces their chances of successfully completing the school work for the year and of being promoted.
All the officials engaged in handling Palestinian minors in cases of stone throwing – police, judges, and soldiers serving in the West Bank – are well aware of the reality described in the report. Yet, the only call for change has come in the form of declarations by a few judges, and no action has been taken to end the infringement of the minors’ rights. Israel has the obligation to ensure the rights of Palestinian minors under its responsibility, and bring the provisions of military law on par with those of Israel’s Youth Law.
NO MINOR MATTER: VIOLATIONS OF THE RIGHTS
OF PALESTINIAN MINORS ARRESTED BY ISRAEL
ON SUSPICION OF STONE THROWING
ACHT MAANDEN CEL VOOR ACTIVIST AHED TAMIMI
23 MAART 2018
Een militaire rechtbank in Israël heeft de Palestijnse jongerenactivist Ahed Tamimi veroordeeld tot acht maanden gevangenisstraf en een voorwaardelijke celstraf van drie jaar. Amnesty beschouwt de straf als een poging om mensen te intimideren die zich durven uit te spreken over de Israëlische bezetting van Palestijns gebieden.
De 17-jarige Ahed Tamimi wordt onder meer beschuldigd van mishandeling nadat op Facebook een video opdook. Daarop is te zien dat ze op 15 december 2017 twee Israëlische militairen slaat en schopt. Dat gebeurde nadat ze had gehoord dat haar neefje gewond was geraakt doordat een Israëlische soldaat hem van dichtbij een rubberkogel tegen het hoofd had geschoten.
Israël schendt Kinderrechtenverdrag
Volgens het Verdrag voor de Rechten van het Kind, waar Israël partij bij is, mogen kinderen alleen gearresteerd en gevangengezet worden als uiterste middel en zo kort mogelijk. Niets wat Tamimi heeft gedaan, rechtvaardigt haar voortdurende detentie. Amnesty roept op haar onmiddellijk vrij te laten.
Elk jaar worden honderden Palestijnse kinderen vervolgd door Israëlische militaire rechtbanken voor jongeren. De rechten van de gearresteerde jongeren worden systematisch geschonden. Ook worden zij mishandeld.
MINORS IN JEOPARDYVIOLATION OF THE RIGHTS OF PALESTINIAN MINORS BY ISRAEL’S MILITARY COURTS
BY ISRAEL’S MILITARY COURTS
SUMMARY, MARCH 2018
Summary, March 2018
Every year, hundreds of Palestinian minors undergo the same scenario. Israeli security forces pick them up on the street or at home in the middle of the night, then handcuff and blindfold them and transport them to interrogation, often subjecting them to violence en route. Exhausted and scared – some having spent a long time in transit, some having been roused from sleep, some having had nothing to eat or drink for hours – the minors are then interrogated. They are completely alone in there, cut off from the world, without any adult they know and trust by their side, and without having been given a chance to consult with a lawyer before the interrogation. The interrogation itself often involves threats, yelling, verbal abuse and sometimes physical violence. Its sole purpose is to get the minors to confess or provide information about others. They are taken to the military court for a remand hearing, where most see their lawyer for the first time. In the vast majority of cases, the military judges approve remand, even when the only evidence against the minors is their own confession, or else allegedly incriminating statements made against them by others. This is the case even when the statements were obtained through severe infringement of the minors’ rights. Given these circumstances and that a prison sentence is the likely outcome in any event, the minors agree to plead guilty as part of a plea bargain. They sign it so that they can resume their normal lives as soon as possible, after serving the prison sentence set out in the plea bargain, which was then approved by the justice of the juvenile military court. Over the past decade, the state has made several changes to the military orders that deal with the arrest and detention of minors and their treatment in the military courts. On the face of it, these changes were meant to improve the protections afforded to minors in the military justice system. However, the changes Israel made have had no more than a negligible impact on minors’ rights. It would seem that they have far more to do with improved appearances than with what happens in actual practice. The facts and figures all demonstrate that minors’ rights are still being regularly and systematically violated.
Impact the so-called improvements in the military justice system have had on minors’ rights
1. The military juvenile court does no more than approve plea bargains
The military juvenile court came into existence in 2009 and has been operating ever since. The state considers its establishment a landmark achievement in the protection of minors’ rights in the military justice system. In practice, however, it has failed to improve the safeguarding of the rights of minors facing charges.
The jurisdiction of the military juvenile courts does not extend to minors’ remand hearings, both pre- or post-indictment, despite there being no substantive reason for this limitation and even though the hearings constitute a major part of the legal proceedings against the minors. Remand hearings are held at the ordinary military court. However, when one of the detainees whose case is being heard on a particular day is a minor, the judge instructs the adult detainees and the spectators to leave the courtroom, and hears the minor’s case separately. Yet it is still the same military judge, and it is still the same military courtroom.
The military juvenile court is given the authority to hear the trial itself. Yet trial hearings are very rare because the overwhelming majority of the cases are closed in a plea bargain between the defense and the prosecution; the prosecution usually drops some of the charges, the defendant pleads guilty to others, and the parties agree on the sentence, including the length of the prison term and the fine to be paid. The reason that so many defendants are prepared to enter into plea bargains is the military courts’ policy on detention which results in minors being kept in custody from the time they are arrested until after they serve their prison sentence.
Going through trial while in prison is fraught with a host of difficulties, including multiple, exhausting trips back and forth between the detention facility and the court. In addition, defendants know that if convicted, they will surely be given a prison sentence, and that even in the extremely unlikely event that they are ultimately acquitted, they will probably have been behind bars – in custodial remand – the same or more time as the prison term they would get in a plea bargain.
All this results in a situation in which the military prosecution rarely has to go to trial, in which it would have to present evidence of the minors’ guilt and give them the chance to refute it by examining witnesses and presenting alternative evidence. It is thus that the role of the military juvenile court is reduced to signing off on plea bargains already reached between the prosecution and the defense.
2. Parents are excluded from the process
The state argues that the amendments made to the military orders provide for a great deal of parental involvement and give them a “central role” in proceedings against their child. For example, the orders stipulate that parents must be informed that their child is being taken into interrogation; they accord parents the right to be present at hearings, entitle them to file motions to the court on his behalf, and take part in sessions reviewing rehabilitation proceedings. Once again, these changes are of no more than symbolic import.
The level of involvement provided for in the new orders and procedures is negligible to begin with. For example, it does not even grant parents the right to be present during their child’s interrogation. In addition, the orders set out a host of exceptions that allow authorities to deny parents even the limited role granted. Moreover, since the vast majority of the cases never even go to trial, ending instead in a plea bargain, parents actually have no opportunity to be involved in the trial.
3. Reduced detention times have no impact on minors’ detention
Following several High Court petitions, some of the detention periods instituted in the military orders applicable to residents of the Occupied Territories were reduced for the purpose of judicial review. It was at this point that limitations on detention periods specifically for minors were first instituted. The reduced periods of detention addressed the period of initial detention before being brought in front of a judge, remand in custody prior to indictment, and post-indictment remand (i.e., remand in custody pending completion of legal proceedings).
The shortened periods of detention set out did nothing to reduce the number of minors being held in detention and have had no impact on the rights of minors facing charges in the military justice system. For one thing, the detention times currently prescribed in the military orders can be extended relatively easily. Second, and more importantly, reduced detention times can be meaningful only under a system that practices substantive judicial review of each and every detention decision. It can be meaningful only under a system which considers detention an exceptional measure to be resorted to only when there is no other choice. Instead, in the military courts, the detention of Palestinian minors is standard procedure, and the presumptions introduced by the military judges result in lengthy detentions.
The key, decisive phase: Initial arrest and interrogation
The amendments which the state draws attention to address what goes on in the military courts proper. Yet these changes do not deal with the crucial stages of the initial arrest and interrogation, so that the state’s focus on these amendments is no more than a smokescreen designed to divert attention from the crux of the matter. The way the military justice system works, what happens during the initial arrest and interrogation – and especially obtaining a confession from the minor or incriminating testimony from others – is what determines the case.
During these early phases, minors suffer much harm. They undergo the process in utter isolation, without their parents or a lawyer by their side, or any other adult who has their best interests at heart, to explain what is to come and inform them of their rights. Instead, they are surrounded by adults who are representatives of the regime of occupation under which they live. Some do not even speak their language, and all are entirely focused on extracting a confession or information from the minors.
The state argues that military procedures prohibit any harm to minors during the arrest and interrogation. The state also alleges that where such harm does occur, the military court takes a stern approach and often enough orders the release of the minor in question. The state’s claims are completely unfounded.
The procedures the state cites are not implemented, but even if they were, they provide only partial protection. They do not restrict nighttime arrest or nighttime interrogation of minors; they do not require arrest to be a measure of last resort; and they do not provide for parental presence during the interrogation. Provisions along these lines are meant to protect minors and counter the inherent power imbalance between them and the interrogators. The fact that the minors go through the interrogation completely alone, with no possibility of consulting anyone who will look out for their interests and well-being severely undercuts the fairness of the investigation and the minors’ chances of arguing their case convincingly.
Moreover, in point of fact, the military courts do not order the release of minors due to flaws in the interrogation. As a rule, even in cases in which they complain that their rights have been abused, minors are kept in custody from the moment they are arrested until the end of their prison sentence. The cases the state boasts of – of justices ordering that minors be released due to defects in the interrogation – are isolated exceptions and in no way reflect the longstanding policy of the courts. In hundreds of judgments that the state does not cite, military justices refer back time and again to the same case law they view as compelling and explain why the above-mentioned atypical rulings do not apply to the case at hand. The arrest of minors is perceived as standard court practice, and judges repeatedly state that the age of the defendant is just one of the considerations a judge may take into account, if at all.
Furthermore, the military courts have ruled that allegations by minors that their confessions were obtained through an interrogation that violated their rights are to be heard and addressed during the proceedings of the main trial. Until that time, the courts remand them to custody. Given that the vast majority of the cases end in plea bargains, the said “main trial” never takes place. Consequently, the prosecution never has to prove that the minors’ rights were upheld during their interrogation or that their confessions were lawfully obtained.
Keeping up appearances
Israel chose to institute a military court system in the West Bank and to use it also when trying Palestinian minors. Official documents indicate that the state understands, at least in theory, that minors are entitled to special protections and that a juvenile justice system must be guided by principles different from those that apply to adult proceedings. However, the situation on the ground indicates that these statements are no more than lip service. They are entirely in the realm of public relations, and bear no relation to what actually goes on.
The changes introduced to the military justice system are superficial, and affect nothing more than form. The system continues to ignore the basic tenets that are the cornerstone of juvenile justice systems under international law as well as in many countries around the world, including Israel. Among these tenets are the principle of the best interests of the child, that arrest and detention must be measures of last resort in the absence of any other choice, and a preference for rehabilitation over legal proceedings.
In the military juvenile justice system, protocols and orders are written by Israelis, always over the heads of Palestinians, who have no way of influencing the content of the orders that govern their lives. The rules are implemented by soldiers, judges and prosecutors, all of whom are uniformed Israelis representing the interests of the occupying country. It is a system in which Palestinians are always suspect. The military courts are not, nor can they ever be, neutral arbiters. They constitute one of the main apparatuses of the occupation Israel uses to oppress the Palestinian population and quell any sign of resistance to its continued control over the Occupied Territories.
This is also why attempts by Israeli officials to draw parallels between the military justice system and the Israeli justice system are futile. The two systems are predicated on different values and are designed to protect different interests. Whereas the courts in Israel proper, inside the Green Line, reflect the interests of the defendants’ own society and seek to protect them, the military courts in the West Bank reflect the interests of a regime of occupation, and primarily its determination to endure. These courts do not reflect the interests of the defendants or their society. This substantive difference leads to the disparity between the two systems in terms of how arrests are made, the types of offenses adjudicated, the evidentiary requirements for indictments, the grounds for detention, and the sentences handed down. Therefore, any comparison of figures across these two systems is irrelevant and designed only to legitimize the military justice system.
The military justice system is not the only area in which Israel takes pains to create a façade of legality in an attempt to hide the human rights abuses associated with enforcing the regime of occupation. Israel does this with the military law enforcement (or rather, non-enforcement) system. The complex apparatus it established, ostensibly designed to address Palestinians’ complaints against soldiers, actually serves as a whitewashing mechanism. Israel does this when it demolishes Palestinian homes, alleging that they were built without construction permits. Yet in reality, Palestinians have no way of actually securing such permits so they can build their homes legally. It is a situation the Israeli authorities are not only fully aware of but are actually responsible for creating. This is also what Israel does when it insists that it has not annexed the West Bank. Yet in practice, Israel treats the territory as its own, applying its laws at will and ignoring the needs of the Palestinian population.
This façade does nothing to safeguard human rights. Its sole purpose is to legitimize the regime of occupation. To that end, this regime occasionally introduces processes, meetings, committees, pilot projects and reports. The façade also makes the regime of occupation more palatable to the public, both in Israel and internationally. It is easier to stomach the imprisonment of a boy when a judge appears to have “considered the full weight of the evidence.” It is easier to stomach the demolition of the home of an entire family because of an attack one of its members carried out in Israel, when it seems like a Supreme Court justice has “reviewed the case.” It is easier to stomach the expansion of a settlement when it seems that the land on which it was built had been declared “state land” as per proper procedure instituted by the authorities.
But behind this façade lurks a regime that has been responsible for the violent abuse of millions of people, day in and day out, without anyone or anything getting in its way, for fifty years now. No law, no military order, no procedure or ruling can obscure this fact. Lift the veil, and the regime of occupation is exposed in all its ugliness for all to see.