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Israel To Establish Military Court For Palestinian Children

Palestine Monitor

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September 2, 2009

Since Israel occupied the Palestinian territories 42 years ago, Palestinian children have been tried in the same military courts as adults. Over 700 Palestinian children are prosecuted in Israeli military courts each year and the most common charge is throwing stones. This includes throwing stones at the Wall. They are interrogated in the absence of a lawyer or family member. The overwhelming majority of these children report being mistreated and forced into providing confessions during interrogations, which are still not being video recorded, as recommended by the UN Committee Against Torture in May 2009.

On 29 July 2009, Gadi Shamni, General in the Israel Defense Forces and the current Head of Central Command signed Military Order number 1644. The order establishes the "first-instance military court for youth, presided over by a single juvenile-court judge or by a panel led by a juvenile-court judge."

At present there are 342 Palestinian children in Israeli prisons, who are commonly held in inhumane conditions, with adult detainees and sometimes with Israeli prisoners who have committed criminal offences. Israeli courts never gave special consideration for underage Palestinian political prisoners, and disregarded the fact that the vast majority of the "confessions" were extracted under torture and abuse.

  According to Israeli Military Order No. 1644 "The head of the military Court of Appeal must appoint judges from the first instance court in the military court. The judges must be prepared to be competent for the post of juvenile judges after the approval of the head of the Court of Appeal to be appointed as juvenile judges for a certain period, which has been identified."

The order also requests the juvenile court sessions be "as separate as possible" from regular court sessions, and allow the youth court to demand a Civil Administration welfare report on the defendant’s family "if the court believes this necessary to determine the minor’s verdict"

Although, it is the first decision ever made in the children’s jurisdiction, there are no essential changes in sentencing practices. Still, according to Israeli Military Order #132 on "judging juvenile delinquents" Israeli Authorities recognize three categories of minors: a "child" less than 12 years, a "youth" between 12 and 14, and "young adults" between 14 and 16. While Israelis reach legal adulthood at 18, residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territories aged 16 years and above are treated as adults. This is illegal according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which calls for 18 years to be set as the minimum age a person can be held criminally liable as an adult, and to which Israel is a signatory.   The newest regulation raises lots of doubts in its reliability, some critics consider it as a veneer for respecting international law.

"After reading the order I can say that there is nothing new," said Khaled Quzmar, an advocate with the Israeli and Palestinian section of Defence for Children International (DCI). "They are just playing with words and trying to make useless cosmetic changes to hide the realities of the military system itself. This military order also gives incredible authority to the military prosecutor who can give permission to override a series of clauses in the order itself".   During the forty-two years that Palestinians have lived under Israeli military rule there has been no protection system for young people. Military commanders possess formidable power to create new orders and treat Palestinian children as they wish.

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Child arrested in East Jerusalem

"The question is whether people who are arresting children and deal with minors in court act in a professional capacity which is informed by international law regarding minors." said Limor Yehuda, an attorney with The Association for Civil Rights in Israel.   Defence for Children International- Palestine has the same concerns: "These 'juvenile judges’ are themselves, military court judges who 'must be prepared to be competent for the post’. No further information is provided to shed light on how it is anticipated these military court judges are suitably qualified to adjudicate cases involving 12 year old children."

The DCI-Palestine adds "Military Order 1644 exempts all hearings to determine whether a child should be kept in pre-trial detention until the end of the legal proceedings from the requirement of having to be heard before a 'juvenile judge’."   Ultimately, it seems that the real problem is not young Palestinian stone-throwers, but the long-standing occupation by a rigorous military regime which these children are resisting.



:: Article nr. 57595 sent on 04-sep-2009 03:23 ECT

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Link: www.palestinemonitor.org/spip/spip.php?article1060



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