Kristine L Ming

State continues to shorten detention periods for Palestinian minors

The state announced to the High Court of Justice in a response on Wednesday that
it had further shortened periods of detention for Palestinian criminal
defendants in the Judea and Samaria Military Courts, particularly regarding

The shortened periods referred to the amount of time that
suspects can be held in detention while they are being investigated and prior to
having an indictment filed against them.

Before the current change, which
was signed at the end of September by OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon,
the initial maximum detention pre-indictment for minors under 16 was 20 days,
with a potential 15 day extension and a maximum number of extensions up until 60

Now, the initial maximum detention pre-indictment for minors under
16 will be 15 days, with a potential 10 day extension and a maximum number of
extensions up until 40 days. The state’s response also said that prior major
changes from 2012 in shortening detention periods – which had only had the
status of trial-period policy changes – became permanent in the recent order
signed by Alon.

Despite the changes, which have made the detention
periods more similar to those applied in Israel, Palestinian minors between the
ages of 16 and 18 still can be detained in the military courts for five days
more than Israelis in the civilian courts.

Also, whereas special
extensions of detention for minors aged 16 to 18 beyond 30 days in Israel
require approval of the attorney-general, such extensions of detention for
minors 16 to 18 of Palestinians in the military courts do not require approval
of the military advocate-general until 75 days.

A Justice Ministry
spokesman also emphasized that the government continues to work on the issue of
reducing detention periods and that even the above remaining differences of
Palestinian minors ages 16-18 may be amended in the future.

The changes
were announced in an updated response by the state to two petitions filed in
2010 against the Defense Ministry and the IDF by the Association for Civil
Rights in Israel and the Palestinian Authority’s Prisoners Affairs

The changes were not as significant as the earlier 2012
reforms, but the spokesman said they continued the trend of shorter periods of

Earlier shortened detention periods were ordered for November
28, 2012, and taking effect on April 2, 2013.

Those changes had included
shortening initial detention before the first hearing before a judge from eight
days to 24 hours for those under the age of 14, regardless of the nature of the

Another change had shortened that initial detention from eight
days to 48 hours for those between the age of 14 and 16, regardless of the
nature of the offense.

Besides the changes for minors, the 2012 changes
for adults accused of non-security- related crimes, such as theft, the initial
detention period was already shortened in August from eight days to 48 hours,
unless a mid-level police commander approves an additional 48 hours due to a
pressing need to continue with an investigation. Adults accused of security
crimes can still be held for an initial period of 96 hours and can have that
period extended by the head of the Shin Bet’s (Israel Security Agency)
interrogation unit.

According to a Justice Ministry press release, the
shortened periods came out of continuous efforts and meetings led by the deputy
to the attorney-general for criminal matters, Raz Nazri.

Also, part of
the meetings included representatives from the IDF Military Advocate- General,
the military courts, the Israel Police, the Public Security ministry and the
Shin Bet.

The purpose of the intergovernmental meetings are to improve
and better protect the rights of detainees in general, and detainee-minors in
particular, while taking into account the unique security predicaments posed by
the West Bank, said the statement.

The intergovernmental meetings are
also responsible for establishing special juvenile courts in the West Bank
military justice system in 2009. They also led to improving minors’ rights,
including providing notice to parents of arrested minor-suspects and appointing
minor suspects a defense attorney where the best interests of the minor-suspect
justified such an appointment.

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