Sick Palestinian Teen Kept in Detention Because Israeli Official Failed to Write Report

A Civil Administration social worker says she didn't have time to write a detention report, as ordered by a military court, in a case that exemplifies discrimination between Palestinian and Israeli minors

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
FILE PHOTO: A suspect on his way to a hearing, 2018.
FILE PHOTO: A suspect on his way to a hearing, 2018. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

A Palestinian minor who suffers from medical problems remains in detention because the Civil Administration official responsible for writing a review of his case has passed the deadline for submitting it, in defiance of an order from a military judge. The review could have resulted in releasing him on probation, or finding an alternative to his ongoing detention.

The youth, who is 16 and a half, is accused of throwing a stone that hit a car. He’s been under detention for a month, since January 13, and suffers from a low white blood cell count and low blood pressure, which causes fainting spells.

Due to his condition, at a hearing regarding the extension of his remand, Israeli human rights attorney Karin Torn-Hibler demanded a written report of the youth’s case. Over the objection of military prosecutor Lt. Raz Ozer, the judge, Maj. Uriel Dreyfus, ordered that this detention review be prepared and submitted by January 28.

However, lacking military law obliging it to prepare detention reviews, Liat Scharf, the administration’s coordinator of social services and international organizations, wrote the military court that she would be able to prepare the report at the end of February, since such reviews are prepared “when time permits.” She explained that she was the only social worker at the Civil Administration, and was occupied with examining requests for exit permits by West Bank Palestinians who are “socially threatened,” which usually refers to battered women or homosexuals.

FILE PHOTO: Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian during clashes at a protest in Hebron in the West Bank, February 23, 2018. Credit: Mussa Issa Qawasma / Reuters

Israel’s Supreme Court, Scharf noted, requires that such people be interviewed by the social coordinator, which has increased her workload in terms of the number of interviews she must conduct.

Scharf met in January with four such individuals, sources told Haaretz; the meetings took place in Israel since they all had already received exit permits, meaning that any immediate threat has been removed.

Israeli law requires that a detention review be prepared for all minors, including Jewish minors from the West Bank who are suspected of committing crimes. Such a review greatly increases their chances of being released before the end of legal proceedings against them. In contrast, however, Palestinian minors from the West Bank are not entitled to this service since it is not legislated in military law. The latter does call for such surveys to be presented only when discussing punishment meted out to Palestinian minors after their conviction.

In August 2014, former Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein asked the IDF military advocate general to change military regulations so that they would include obligation to prepare detention reviews for Palestinian minors. In June 2016, state prosecutors promised, in the name of the IDF, that “extensive staff work” was being done in this matter and that it was “in its advanced stages.”

Human rights lawyer Gaby Lasky, February 2018.Credit: Meged Gozani

When no progress was made, Israeli human rights attorney Gaby Lasky filed a petition with the High Court of Justice, demanding that discrimination between Palestinian and Jewish minors be stopped. She filed the suit in the name of a Palestinian youth and three NGOs (the Public Committee against Torture, Rabbis for Human Rights and Physicians for Human Rights). Lasky noted that military judges themselves are often dismayed, when handing down their rulings, by the fact that army regulations do not acknowledge the necessity of detention reviews for Palestinian minors. According to her petition, the military court of appeals has often argued against military prosecutors’ opposition to the preparation of such reports.

Under the pressure of this petition, a year after it was submitted, the State Prosecutors Office announced in February 2018 that as per Weinstein’s suggestion, a draft ruling was prepared, giving military courts the option of demanding that such reviews be prepared. This still would not constitute complete equalization of the rights of detained Palestinian and Jewish minors, for whom such reviews are obligatory. In reviewing the budget for 2019, the state prosecution allocated funds for implementing this new policy, it was said. The Civil Administration believes it will take effect on July 1, 2019, after new social worker positions are guaranteed.

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