The state attorney announced on Tuesday major changes in significantly
shortening the detention periods for Palestinian minors in the West Bank
military court system.
The changes were announced in an updated response
by the state to two petitions filed in 2010 against the Defense Ministry and the
IDF by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the Palestinian
Authority’s Prisoners Affairs Ministry.
The new shortened detention
periods were ordered on November 28 and will take effect on April 2.
changes include shortening initial detention before being brought before a judge
from eight days to 24 hours for those under age 14, regardless of the nature of
Another change shortened that initial detention from eight
days to 48 hours for those between the age of 14 and 16, regardless of the
nature of the offense.
Besides the changes for minors, for adults accused
of non-security-related crimes such as theft, the initial detention period was
already shortened in August from eight days to 48 hours, unless a mid-level
police commander approves an additional 48 hours due to a pressing need to
continue with an investigation. Adults accused of security crimes can still be
held for an initial period of 96 hours and can have that period extended by the
head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency)’s interrogation
According to a Justice Ministry press release, the shortened
periods came out of continuous efforts and meetings led by the deputy to the
attorney-general for criminal matters Raz Nazri.
Also, part of the
meetings, included representatives from the IDF Military Advocate- General, the
military courts, the Israeli police, the public security ministry and the Shin
The purpose of the intergovernmental meetings was to improve and
better protect the rights of detainees in general, and detainee-minors in
particular, while taking into account the unique security predicaments posed by
the West Bank, said the statement.
The intergovernmental meetings were
also previously responsible for establishing special juvenile courts in the West
Bank military justice system in 2009. They also led to improving minors’ rights,
including providing notice to parents of arrested minor-suspects and appointing
minor-suspects a defense attorney where the best interests of the minor-suspect
justified such an appointment.
In response, spokesmen and attorneys for
ACRI and the PA’s Prisoners Affairs Ministry called the development “positive.”
However, they also expressed concerns that in some areas, particularly with
adults and security-prisoners, that the policies still needed to change and
An attorney for the PA’s Prisoners Affairs Ministry added that
while the changes were positive and necessary, it was “a pity that they only
came about by the filing of our petitions.”
The attorney said it was too
soon to know if they would withdraw their petition which had addressed itself to
a wide variety of issues with the military justice system.
press release also said that the intergovernmental meetings would continue in
their efforts in the future to avoid harm to and improve the rights of minors in
the military justice system.