State continues to shorten detention periods for Palestinian minors

High Court of Justice told by state that trial period policy changes have become permanent.

IDF soldiers arrest Palestinian 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
IDF soldiers arrest Palestinian 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
The state announced to the High Court of Justice in a response on Wednesday that it had further shortened periods of detention for Palestinian criminal defendants in the Judea and Samaria Military Courts, particularly regarding minors.
The shortened periods referred to the amount of time that suspects can be held in detention while they are being investigated and prior to having an indictment filed against them.
Before the current change, which was signed at the end of September by OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, the initial maximum detention pre-indictment for minors under 16 was 20 days, with a potential 15 day extension and a maximum number of extensions up until 60 days.
Now, the initial maximum detention pre-indictment for minors under 16 will be 15 days, with a potential 10 day extension and a maximum number of extensions up until 40 days. The state’s response also said that prior major changes from 2012 in shortening detention periods – which had only had the status of trial-period policy changes – became permanent in the recent order signed by Alon.
Despite the changes, which have made the detention periods more similar to those applied in Israel, Palestinian minors between the ages of 16 and 18 still can be detained in the military courts for five days more than Israelis in the civilian courts.
Also, whereas special extensions of detention for minors aged 16 to 18 beyond 30 days in Israel require approval of the attorney-general, such extensions of detention for minors 16 to 18 of Palestinians in the military courts do not require approval of the military advocate-general until 75 days.
A Justice Ministry spokesman also emphasized that the government continues to work on the issue of reducing detention periods and that even the above remaining differences of Palestinian minors ages 16-18 may be amended in the future.
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 changes were not as significant as the earlier 2012 reforms, but the spokesman said they continued the trend of shorter periods of detention.
Earlier shortened detention periods were ordered for November 28, 2012, and taking effect on April 2, 2013.
Those changes had included shortening initial detention before the first hearing before a judge from eight days to 24 hours for those under the age of 14, regardless of the nature of the offense.
Another change had 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, the 2012 changes 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’s (Israel Security Agency) 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 Israel Police, the Public Security ministry and the Shin Bet.
The purpose of the intergovernmental meetings are 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 are also 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.