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The manipulation of justice in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

January 24, 2014 at 12:52 am

‘Eyes on Israel’s Military Court’ is Addamer’s latest report about the manipulation of justice in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The report contains recollections by volunteers who visited Israeli jails between 2009 and 2011 and portrays the vivid difference between Israel’s assumed stance as a state built upon the foundations of human rights, and the reality of an apartheid system whose trials are likened to various abuses committed at Guantanamo.

The report states that Israeli military courts are a fragment of an apartheid system which is in contempt of the Geneva Convention. Although courts are now monitored by an EU representative in order to achieve a semblance of justice, fair trials are still far from occurring. Whilst the international representation in courts serves to highlight the plight of Palestinian detainees, Israel continues to defy and act against international law without any significant repercussions on its illegal occupation.

It is estimated that 99.74% of detainees are found guilty in Israeli courts – plea bargains make up the majority of these convictions. In a court system which thrives upon illegality and human rights abuses, plea bargains aid a system in which confessions signed by prisoners under coercion are written in Hebrew; the right to an interpreter is neglected; and the testimony of an Israeli soldier is considered sufficient to elicit a conviction. Military courts classify offences under five categories: ‘hostile terrorist activity’, ‘disturbance of public order’, ‘classic criminal offences’, ‘illegal presence in Israel’ and ‘traffic offences in the Occupied Palestinian Territories’.

The report notes that the PLO is still considered illegal, despite the fact that Israel engages in negotiations with the organisation. Carrying a Palestinian flag or ‘pouring coffee’ for a member of a so-called illegal organisation is tantamount to an offence according to an Israeli military court.

Palestinian detainees are regularly denied basic rights under arrest, including the right to a notice of criminal charges; adequate time to prepare an effective defence; the right to a trial without delay; the right to interpretation and translation; and the presumption of innocence. Administrative detention continues to hold sway in courts – Palestinians are charged on ‘secret information’ and they are even denied the right to trial. Human rights defenders, such as those leading grassroots movement against apartheid and the construction of ‘The Wall’, are prosecuted in military courts, despite international recognition of these individuals as activists.

The detention of children – around 8000 since the year 2000, features strongly in the report. Children are forced to sign confessions in Hebrew, denied the presence of their parents during interrogation and punished as adults irrespective of their age at the time of the alleged crime.

Addamer representatives described the courts as structures resembling cages where dignity is eradicated. Trials are carried out without any order leading to further misrepresentation of Palestinians and consolidating the aim of incarcerating as many detainees as possible. Notably, language is used as ‘a weapon’ – translations which are supposed to aid the defendant are usually carried out by Israeli soldiers, who have been seen to commit errors in translation in order to allow a judge to incarcerate a detainee.

Worthy of note, however, is the international community’s feeble insistence that Israel adheres to human rights and international law whilst strengthening economic and diplomatic ties with the apartheid regime. Western justice has become a commodity used to measure the difference between Western standards and the Middle East. Disregarding the laws which Western governments are so prone to citing when it comes to Israel translates as nothing but sheer treason against Palestinians struggling to survive against apartheid.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.