Price tag offenders 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Following criticism of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to adopt new
measures against Jewish rioters in the West Bank, human rights and military law
experts said Thursday that no legislative changes would be required to try
Jewish residents in military courts rather than civilian courts, and warned that
settlers could face much stiffer penalties if the policy is
Among the series of measures recommended by Justice Minister
Yaakov Neeman and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch include
permitting the IDF to try Jewish activists charged with security offenses in
West Bank military courts instead of regular courts in Israel.
Indictments served against suspected far-right radicals
Rioting Jews to be tried in army courts
to David Kretzmer, professor emeritus of the Hebrew University's law faculty, in
theory, Jewish Israelis can already be tried in military courts, because the IDF
military commander in the West Bank has the jurisdiction to deal with any
resident of the territory convicted of a security offense.
international law, the West Bank is considered occupied territory and in line
with the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), the IDF military commander established
the military court system in 1970, as part of the Security Regulations Order 387
(Judea and Samaria), to ensure the protection of civilians during times of war.
While the legislation applied in the region is the same as that under force
before the IDF’s entry, specific changes have been made, according to the
Military Advocate-General’s Office, “for maintaining the safety and security of
Human rights lawyer and military courts expert attorney Smadar
Ben Natan noted that, Jewish Israelis were still tried in the military courts as
late as the 1980s, but the policy changed and currently only Palestinians are
Trials take place in one of two military courts, in Salem,
near Jenin and in Ofer, near Ramallah: both are in military bases.
side may appeal judgements in the Military Court of Appeals, whose decision is
final; however in some cases a further appeal may be heard in the Supreme
Criminal trials open with an official investigation carried out by
the Military Advocate- General’s Office. MAG officers then decide whether there
is sufficient evidence to file an indictment or close the case.
to Kretzmer and Ben Natan, the overwhelming majority of criminal trials in
military courts result in plea bargains, and so there are few evidentiary
hearings where the prosecution and defense each make their own
“That works because most Palestinians are kept in detention
pending trial," said Kretzmer.
“So their lawyers think it is better to
reach a deal.”
Although plea bargains are common – although not as common
– in civilian courts, Ben Natan says more defendants choose to confess in
military court cases because the focus is on the interrogation, which is usually
carried out by the security services rather than the police.
courts also have harsher due process and far stiffer penalties than civilian
courts, because defendants are tried under military law, which is focused on
dealing with security offenses, rather than the penal code.
in policy reflects a hardening attitude against settlers,” Ben Natan
Under military law defendants can be held for eight days before
being brought before a judge, compared with 24 hours for civilian courts;
likewise military law allows security prisoners to be held for 90 days without
access to a lawyer, compared with 21 days under civilian courts. The penalty for
attempted murder is a life sentence under military law - whose context is
security offenses perpetrated by the enemy - compared with just six years under
the Israeli penal code, which applies in civilian courts.
punishable by the death penalty (although in practice that is commuted to life
imprisonment) compared with life under civilian law; and manslaughter attracts a
life sentence under military law, compared with a maximum 20 years in civilian