'2,700 Palestinians held without trial'

IDF chief justice criticizes military prosecution for not filing charges.

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December 26, 2006 22:24
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A top IDF judge disclosed on Tuesday that 2,700 Palestinians have been detained without trial this year, criticizing the military prosecution for not filing charges against some of them. Col. Shaul Gordon, chief justice of the army's West Bank appeals court, told the soldiers' weekly Bamahane that 2,000 of the detainees filed appeals, and their detention was shortened in many cases. He said even the ones who do not file appeals are reviewed. The practice of administrative detention has been harshly criticized by Palestinians and human rights groups, who say that if the IDF has evidence against suspects, it should put them on trial. The IDF has responded that sometimes evidence is too sensitive to submit to a trial. Gordon, who is leaving his post after six years, backed the critics in some cases. "Sometimes we get the impression that with a bit more effort in the investigation, an indictment could have been brought, because that is the best way," he told the weekly. The publication reported that Gordon instituted basic reforms in the military court system during his term. Until 2002, the military courts were part of the army prosecution system, but Gordon forced a separation, making the courts independent. "Today every defense lawyer knows the prosecution is a separate entity" from the courts, he said. Also, until two years ago, the military used army officers with no legal training as judges. The weekly said standard procedure was to run defendants through the judicial process at top speed, with officers pulling duty as judges regardless of their qualifications. Gordon scrapped the system. "It appeared absurd and unacceptable to me," he said. Instead, he persuaded civilian judges to serve their reserve army duty as military judges. The soldiers' publication said that about 10,000 indictments are brought against Palestinians each year, including 3,600 for security offenses and 1,500 for public disturbance. Others are criminal and traffic offenses. Gordon said the most difficult period was during Israel's 2001 sweep through the West Bank that followed a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings. The judicial system was flooded with thousands of detainees. In one case, he said, a Palestinian was brought before him on charges that he helped plan a terror attack. Gordon asked for the documentation and was shocked to read that the man was innocent - another person had confessed to the crimes of which he was accused. "That's a story that shows how we can go wrong," he told the weekly.


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