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Israeli courts are like dense forests run by wolves

A view of a court house in Haifa on 10 February 2020 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]
A view of an Israeli court house, 10 February 2020 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

The Israeli High Court of Justice decided after six years of deliberations on the case of the rearrest of prisoners released as part of the Wafaa Al-Ahrar prisoner exchange deal, to look at them individually rather than collectively. The first example of this was the decision to sentence Ibrahim Al-Masry again to life imprisonment.

Many hearings over the past six years and they have repeated the arguments of their predecessors, scrutinising the most minute details, going through their papers and drowning themselves and observers in endless talk. This is despite the fact that the matter is very clear. No two sane people would disagree that the individuals involved are psychologically complicated beings calling themselves judges.

The Israeli military courts imposed on the Palestinians in the occupied territories are strange creatures. They are innovative and inventive in an unprecedented way when it comes to their oppression, as well as the terminology used, which is not found in any other court anywhere in the world. How do their judges think and what legal references do they rely on? They are like dense forests run by wolves. The judges are cast as the latter, obviously, with wild, illogical allegations, procedures and sentencing.

It is very clear that the Wafaa Al-Ahrar prisoners were rearrested on a night when all eyes of justice and legal logic known to mankind were absent without leave, and that the arrests were politically motivated. The deal to release them, agreed following Egyptian mediation, was torn to shreds when they were captured and thrown into prison again. The politicians took this decision; the army executed it; and the judges gave it legal cover and justification. Evil was first, second and third.

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The "justice" system is rigged against Palestinians from start to finish. For example, in the administrative detention courts an intelligence officer cites a secret report that remains secret in court and is seen by nobody but the judge, who relies on it to pass sentence. The judgement can be and is renewed time and time again.

Such secret reports are read by the judge, who then reads out what the writer of the report has recommended in terms of a sentence. That's the judge's job. Appeals can be made to the Supreme Court, where this same secret file is even more heavily guarded and highly regarded. So highly regarded, in fact, that so-called administrative prisoners conclude that the higher the court, the more base and brutal it is. The prisoner can spend years in prison and stand in front of dozens of wolf-judges without ever knowing the contents of the report or why they are in prison.

Moreover, not even children are spared. How can a judge allow themselves to sentence a child to life in prison? How can they allow themselves to subject a child who has already spent over 70 days in solitary confinement to more questioning and interrogation? How can they allow themselves to bless the oppressive measures and military interrogations when the traces of the torture inflicted are clear on the prisoner's body?

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Israel's courts have legitimised torture and thousands of victims are testimony to the brutality; the most recent two victims were Samer Al-Arbeed and Walid Hanatsheh. The torture could have remained in the hands of the security forces and the intelligence services, but the fact is that it was inflicted in accordance with documented decisions from judges who cast aside their oath of office and looked at the matter through very dark glasses indeed. This is shameful for anyone, but especially people calling themselves judges in the courts in a supposed democracy. Transparency and legal professionalism are strangers to Israeli courts imposed on the Palestinians.

Justice is not the objective of such courts. Ever more oppression of the Palestinian people most certainly is.

This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 13 August 2020

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

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