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Palestinian minors' detention time in W. Bank cut
By YONAH JEREMY BOB
12/18/2012
State attorney announces major changes in significantly shortened detention periods under IDF detention policies.
 
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.

Some 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 the offense.

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 unit.

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 Bet.

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 improve.

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.

The state’s 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.
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