Israel's Compensation for the False Arrest of a Palestinian Is a Fraction of What Jews Receive

A Palestinian minor falsely detained for 13 days is paid the maximum the military court can order – 75 shekels a day

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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A facility at Ofer Prison, 2019.
A facility at Ofer Prison, 2019.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

A rare decision by an Israeli military court in the West Bank on paying compensation for a false arrest has revealed what a lost day in the life of a Palestinian is worth, in the eyes of the military justice system: 75 shekels ($23).

At the military youth court at the Ofer army base on Sunday, Lt. Col. Yair Tirosh ordered the payment of full compensation to N.S., a Palestinian who in early 2016, while still a minor, was questioned while his right to legal counsel was violated and was wrongfully detained for 13 days. Tirosh ruled that he should be paid a total of 975 shekels, the maximum amount that military law allows.

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By comparison, in three separate cases in 2018 and 2019 the right-wing Honenu nonprofit organization was able to make the state pay much larger sums for the false arrests of Jewish minors it represented: 6,500 shekels in compensation for a Jewish minor who was arrested at the West Bank wildcat outpost of Geulat Zion and was kept in the police station overnight after his interrogation ended; 7,500 shekels to a Jewish minor from the Yitzhar settlement in compensation for being harassed by the police and being falsely detained; and 12,000 shekels in compensation for a minor from Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea She’arim for police violence against him, harassment and false arrest.

N.S. was indicted in February 2016 for throwing a firebomb at a military post in Hebron, in spite of weak evidence and although an indictment was not filed against A.S., a friend of his, also a minor, who soldiers said participated in the incident. The soldiers also fired at and wounded the two minors, both residents of the old city in Hebron, when they walked near the post.

Although the common practice in the military justice system is to keep Palestinians under arrest until the end of proceedings against them, even if the charges are not severe, he was released on bail. This allowed his attorneys Neri Ramati and Gaby Lasky to conduct evidentiary hearings, requiring the military prosecution to prove its claims. About a year after the indictment was filed, the prosecution withdrew it and Tirosh acquitted him of all charges.

Lasky filed a suit to grant N.S. compensation and legal fees two years ago. In the suit, she provided examples of compensation for cases of false arrest from 2000 through 2013, showing they ranged from 5,000 to 20,000 shekels per day. Lasky noted that the compensation is always calculated with consideration of emotional distress, loss of freedom and harm to plaintiffs’ dignity.

In his ruling this week ordering the payment of compensation and legal costs, Tirosh relied on Section 183 of Military Order 2009, which states that in the case of an acquittal, the military court is allowed to order that “the commander of Israel Defense Forces in the region will pay the defendant the costs of his defense and compensation for his arrest or imprisonment … of the amount that the court sees appropriate.”

But this amount is limited in advance by a military order from December 5, 2007, which was signed by the former IDF commander in the West Bank, Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, stating that the “maximum amount of compensation for payment for a day of arrest or detention will be set at 75 shekels.”

Tirosh also ruled that Lasky be paid legal costs of 4,900 shekels – based on the number of sessions held on the arrest, time spent studying the case, her preparatory work and the number of sessions held in court. Tirosh also found it appropriate here to increase the maximum set in the military order by 50 percent, and added 2,450 shekels more for Lasky. Tirosh said the money would be paid for from the “regional treasury” – in other words, from the funds of the Civil Administration in the West Bank, a large part of which comes from fines paid by Palestinians to the military court.

Lasky told Haaretz that Tirosh was an attentive judge, who “tried to do justice within the framework that from the outset was not meant to provide justice to Palestinians.” She said that because of the extremely low amount of compensation paid to her client, she would give him some of the amount of the legal costs she would receive.

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