The Israeli military has introduced a procedure for summoning Palestinian minors for interrogation instead of detaining them without warning, but the rules remain confidential and contain exceptions that make them unlikely to significantly reduce nighttime arrests.
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The announcement on the procedures was provided in advance of a hearing on a petition by the Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual asking that the summons be the default procedure for suspects. In a hearing on the petition, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said on Monday that the state will need to provide an update about the implementation of the new rules in February 2022.
Over the past six years, the military has claimed that it was conducting a pilot program for summoning minors for interrogation instead of arresting them in their homes, but announced in 2018 that the program would not apply to those aged between 16 and 18. The new regulations are based on the pilot program, which appears to have been extremely limited in scope – but unlike the pilot program, it does not exclude those aged 16-18. According to the main points of the regulations provided by the military, the procedure will apply only to minors the police want to question – not minors the Shin Bet wants to interrogate, who will still be arrested in their homes.
The new regulations include many exceptions. They will not apply if there is a need to search the house of the minor, if there is a serious concern over possible flight or obstruction of justice, if the suspect poses an immediate danger, or if there are a number of suspects and the summoning of one of them would interfere with the arrest of the rest. The procedure also makes an exception for minors suspected of “serious violations” and those with a record of such crimes. A definition was not given for what qualifies as a serious crime, and it is not clear whether crimes such as stone-throwing or participation in an illegal demonstration are also included. The summons will be made in a call in Arabic between the police and the minor’s parents, according to the military.
According to figures provided by the military after freedom of information requests by Hamoked, over the past six years 128 Palestinian minors received summons for interrogation by the police as part of the pilot program. In comparison, in 2019 alone, 235 Palestinian minors were arrested in their homes, without prior warning, in the middle of the night.
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Daniel Shenhar, the head of Hamoked’s legal department, who filed the petition, said of the military's announcement: “It is a good thing that as a result of Hamoked’s petition the army set regulations to summon children for interrogation, but it is clear … that the army still sees the arrest of a child in the middle of the night as something routine, and even the default choice. The regulation is confidential, and it has so many conditions, that there is a fear that nothing will change on the ground. Therefore, the High Court of Justice decided to remain with its finger on the pulse and examine its implementation during the next half year.”