Detention Cut for Palestinians in Cases Unrelated to Security

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Israeli soldiers during a raid on the West Bank village of Barta'a, March 16, 2018.
Israeli soldiers during a raid on the West Bank village of Barta'a, March 16, 2018.Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The maximum length of time that Palestinians from the West Bank can be detained for offenses unrelated to security has been reduced.

Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan, head of the army’s Southern Command, recently signed an order, which takes effect Tuesday, in response to petitions submitted to the High Court of Justice by human rights organizations.

The order reduced to three days the maximum period that a Palestinian criminal suspect may be held before being brought before a judge. Currently, Palestinian adults may be held for up to 48 hours, a period that can be extended by an additional 96 hours as needed for “urgent interrogatory activities.”

The order signed by Padan reduces the additional period to 24 hours if the detainee is not suspected of security offenses or assaults on service members.

The order also affects Palestinian children who are suspected of offenses unrelated to security. Israeli military law today allows Palestinian children under 14 to be held for up to 24 hours, with a 24-hour extension for “urgent interrogatory activities.” The new order cuts the extension period in half, to 12 hours. Palestinians between the ages of 14 and 18 can be held for 48 hours, which can be extended by an additional 48 hours; the order cuts the extension to 24 hours.

The army is responsible for the terms of detention of West Bank Palestinians, who are prosecuted in Israeli military courts even for security offenses. The judges are officers in military uniform, the prosecutors military lawyers. The army makes the laws for these courts, which are different from those that apply in the Israeli judicial system.

A military source who requested confidentiality said the order aimed to reduce the disparity between detention terms for Palestinians and Israelis prosecuted in Israeli criminal courts. The order reduces but does not eliminate that disparity, as Israeli adults cannot be detained beyond 24 hours without being brought before a judge, with the exception of cases of administrative detention.

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