Average IDF Court Proceedings in West Bank Is 44 Minutes, Study Shows

Most military court cases do not go to trial; they are resolved in plea bargains with the prosecutor or through guilty pleas.

Defendants appear before the Ofer military court in the West Bank for only 44 minutes, on average, according to a study by two military justice officials.

The study is discussed in an article in the latest issue of Hapraklit, a legal journal published by the Israel Bar Association. It was conducted by a member of the military court of appeals, Lt. Col. Zvi Lekach, and a military court judge in the southern West Bank responsible for court statistics, Maj. Amir Dahan.

Suspects in transfer of terror funds to Palestinian prisoners
Daniel Bar-On

The authors proposed a mathematical model for setting the optimal number of judges for a specific caseload.

The authors examined 468 military court cases, looking at the duration of each phase, including various hearings, the actual trial, the delivery of the verdict and pre-sentencing arguments.

The cumulative time did not include preparation for court hearings or the time for writing the verdict. The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman's Office declined to allow Haaretz to discuss the study with Dahan, saying this would breach judicial ethics.

Most military court cases do not go to trial; they are resolved in plea bargains with the prosecutor or through guilty pleas. In Lekach and Dahan's previous research from 2008, they found that 95.5 percent of the 4,000 cases that year produced either a guilty plea or a plea agreement.

Rare acquitals

In 2010, only 0.26 percent of all cases in military court were resolved by the defendant's complete acquittal, according to a previous report in Haaretz.

Court officials call that figure misleading, however, because of the many plea bargains the court accepts. One source said that in cases in which the allegations against a defendant are in dispute, the acquittal rate is 29 percent.

A lawyer who works in the military court system told Haaretz that in cases where the defendants are accused of disturbing the peace, the accused sit in jail longer by insisting on a trial than by simply agreeing to a plea bargain.

Meanwhile, for defendants accused of nationalist-related security offenses heard by a three-judge panel, the cumulative average was 63 minutes. Accused security offenders whose cases were heard before a single judge averaged 60 minutes. Common-criminal defendants got 46 minutes while those accused of disturbing the peace received 29 minutes on average. Alleged traffic offenders got 18 minutes.

Defendants accused of being illegally present in a particular area got 45 minutes and the average detention hearing lasted 18 minutes. (Though in this case the average detention hearing in Israel proper was even quicker, only six minutes. )