Report: Minors in Jeopardy (B'Tselem)
In March 2018, the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, released its latest publication examining violations of the rights of Palestinian minors detained by Israeli forces and prosecuted in Israel’s military court system. Below is a summary of the report and a link to the .pdf version of the full report.
Report 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.