The entire area Israel controls between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is governed by a single regime working to advance and perpetuate the supremacy of one group over another. By geographically, demographically and physically engineering space, the regime enables Jews to live in a contiguous area with full rights, including self-determination, while Palestinians live in separate units and enjoy fewer rights. This qualifies as an apartheid regime, although Israel is commonly viewed as a democracy upholding a temporary occupation.
Mu'taz Ja'far Hamad (25) was arrested in May 2019, convicted of hurling a Molotov cocktail a year earlier and sentenced to 20 months. Although it later transpired he had been in prison at the time of the alleged offense, the state refused to revoke his conviction and the parties agreed upon his immediate release after 17 months in prison. The case reveals how the Israeli military justice system routinely operates: flimsy evidence, marginal judicial involvement and disregard for the truth.
Since 2015, hardly a month has gone by without Israel holding Palestinian minors in administrative detention; four were being held at the end of 2019. The military justice system regularly violates the rights of detained minors, who face it alone with no explanation of their rights or what lies ahead, while Israel makes a show of protecting their rights. Administrative detention makes this worse as the date of release is unknown. B’Tselem spoke with three minors, two of whom are still in detention and the third was released in early January 2020.
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.
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.