What is the military court system?

Visit The Issue section of our website to read about the military court system in depth.

Why are we concerned about children in the military courts?

Each year between 500-700 Palestinian minors are tried in the military courts. The military courts have jurisdiction to prosecute children as young as 12. Children are particularly vulnerable in any legal system, but there is significant evidence of serious areas of concern regarding the the treatment of Palestinian minors in the military courts, compared to Israeli minors in the civilian system in Israel. Unlike with Israeli minors, there is no legal obligation for a parent of a Palestinian minor to be present during questioning. On 27 September 2011, military law was amended and a provision was added that a parent should be notified that their child has been arrested. The amendment also stated that the minor should be informed that they have the right to consult with a lawyer but it does not state when this consultation should occur. Under Israeli law, prior to interrogating a minor, the interrogator must notify the minor’s defense lawyer of the interrogation, and in absence of  a lawyer the interrogator must notify the Public Defender’s Office. For Palestinian minors who are arrested and do not have their parents present, the chances of them knowing they have the right to consult with a lawyer, or knowing a lawyer whom they can contact are very low.

Research published in 2014 which involved interviewing 105 Palestinian juveniles shows that during arrest and interrogation, only 5% of those who gave testimony were given the chance to consult with a lawyer before interrogation. Furthermore 69% reported being shown and/or signing documents (including their own testimony) in Hebrew, a language many do not understand.  The figures in this report reflect the findings documented in a host of other reports by organisations, for example, Israeli NGO B’Tselem, who after reviewing 50 cases noted that only one juvenile was given the chance to speak with a lawyer prior to interrogation. One of the recommendations of the British Lawyers report Children in Military Custody, funded by the Foreign and Common Wealth Office, is that the right for a child to consult a lawyer prior to interrogation should be respected. Links to these reports and others can be found on our further info page. We believe supporting those working to improve the situation for young people on the ground is the highest expression of our Jewish and Zionist values. It is also a way for us to reach out across divides, something that is important in the pursuit of peace.

What does the campaign seek to achieve?

The campaign hopes to achieve two main outcomes. Firstly we hope to raise awareness about the issue of juveniles in the military court system within the British Jewish community. We are running public events in London and communities across the UK, and student events on campuses. Secondly we aim to raise £26,000 to pay for a lawyer to be on-call for children and young people in the system.

What are you raising money for?

All the money raised will be used for the cause of improving the situation for Palestinian children who experience the military court system. We are collaborating with the Israeli Law firm Gaby Lasky Law and partners in this campaign. We hope to raise £26,000, enough money to pay the salary and expenses of a lawyer for one year. Their job will be to represent Palestinian children throughout the judicial process and create reporting to document the reality on the ground. The reporting will then be used to advocate around the issue in order to create long-term, sustainable change to the situation. We will also be using a small amount of funding to contribute towards the costs of bringing an Israeli lawyer from Lasky Law to the United Kingdom for three days to speak at educational events about this issue.

Tell me more about the lawyer’s work…

The lawyer’s job will be to escort, advise and represent Palestinian minors throughout the legal proceedings. This includes emergency legal support at the police station, representing them during the initial interrogation and visiting minors prior to any second or third interrogation. The lawyer will also visit the minors on a weekly basis during the investigation for as long as they are in custody and the trial has not finished.

The lawyer will also be the point of contact between the minors, their family and their village. This involves collecting evidence including affidavits, videos and photos during the arrest and trial period, and arranging bail options and guarantors for the bail hearing. If the case ultimately goes to trial, the lawyer will also represent the defendant in court.

It is estimated that the lawyer will be able to work with roughly 50 minors. 25-35 of these will be represented throughout the judicial process and a further 15 will have their experiences documented to create the aforementioned reporting.

What will you do with the money if you are not able to raise £26, 000?

If we are unable to reach our target of £26,000, all of the money we raise will be used by Lasky Law to support juveniles in the military court system by representing them in their trials and documenting their experiences.

Who is the Israeli organisation you are working with?

Gaby Lasky and Partners Law Office specializes in defending human rights both in Israel and in the occupied territories. The office represents Palestinian and Israeli human rights activists, and protects their freedom of expression and freedom of protest. In addition the office represents foreign residents who are refused entry to Israel, and couples in their applications for family unification.

Attorney Nery Ramati will be visiting the UK for an education tour. Nery is a partner in Gaby Lasky and Partners Law Office. Since his graduation in 2009 he has been representing Palestinian minors in the military courts and Palestinian human rights activists.

Is the Kids Court In Conflict campaign preventing guilty people from going to prison?

No. We unhesitatingly believe that Israel should prosecute and punish those that attempt to undermine its security. This campaign is not about preventing guilty people from going to prison, it is about ensuring that all Palestinian children have access to due legal process and supporting the work of Israeli organisations who are working in this field.

By criticising Israel aren’t you giving more ammunition to anti-Zionists?

As Zionists who support the existence of a safe and secure Israel, we want to do everything we can to ensure Israel embodies the values upon which it was founded. Within both Israeli society and the Israeli military system a conversation around the issues raised by this campaign has been taking place for a number of years, and we believe that it is an important and valuable conversation to have within the British Jewish community.The Law in These Parts, a documentary film highlighting many of these issues won the Best Documentary prize at the Jerusalem Film Festival in 2011. More importantly, we believe it is essential to approach this issue from a pro-Israel and Jewish perspective.

Stone-throwing is violent, dangerous and life-threatening; aren’t you trivialising its severity?  

Absolutely not. We recognise that stone throwing is a serious and often life-threatening action. We are not calling for Palestinian minors who throw stones to be “let-off” or avoid the consequences of their actions. We are simply calling for their basic rights to due legal process to be upheld, as whether guilty or innocent, all young people should have access to a lawyer throughout their experience of the judicial process.

Who is Yachad and what is their involvement in the campaign?

This campaign is being run by young British Jews who are part of Yachad Youth, the youth department of the organisation Yachad.

With over 4000 supporters, Yachad galvanises the voice of British Jewish supporters of Israel, through its campaigns, in support of a two-state solution and end to the occupation. It runs educational events and trips to the West Bank to enable British Jews to explore the reality on the ground today and to meet Israelis and Palestinians working to create peace in the region. For more information please visit www.yachad.org.uk

If you care about Israel why not work with Israeli children?

The founders of Israel set out to create a country where everyone was equal “irrespective of religion, race or sex”. These Palestinian minors are not citizens of Israel and we hope that they will one day live in their own state. However, until then by working alongside Israeli organisations in striving to ensure that they have access to due legal process we believe that this campaign epitomises the Jewish values set out in the Declaration of Independence.

Hasn’t the Israeli government recently reformed the military court system?

In February 2014, Israel’s military authorities announced the introduction of a pilot programme to issue written summonses in lieu of arresting children in the West Bank at night. This announcement followed concerns raised in the UK, The Netherlands, Australia and by UNICEF about the effect of repeated night-time incursions into Palestinian communities by the Israeli military.

The pilot programme has now been suspended and statistics assessing its success have yet to be released.

In early December 2014 there was an article published on Ynetnews stating that the Israeli Government plans to drastically change the military court system in response to an international outcry regarding the conditions faced by Palestinian minors. However the situation in the courts currently remains unchanged. See the article here: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4599755,00.html

Are interrogations of Palestinian minors audio-visually recorded?

Israeli Military Order 1745 came into effect on 10 September 2014 and provides for the audio-visual recording of police interrogations of minors in “non-security” related offences in the West Bank. The order also stipulates that interrogations should be conducted and documented in the language of the accused, which in virtually every case is Arabic.

However, the overwhelming majority of cases involving the prosecution of Palestinian minors in the military courts are defined as security offences by the military authorities, to which the new order therefore does not apply.

The new order will apply to traffic offences and to cases involving the entry into Israel without a permit.

The order was issued by Major General Nitzan Alon, Commander of the Israeli Defence Forces in the West Bank, and was published in both Hebrew and Arabic. An unofficial translation of the order is also available in English.

Do you support Israel Apartheid Week?

We absolutely do not support the Israel Apartheid Week campaign. As a movement we support a two-state solution as the only viable, just resolution to the Israel Palestine conflict. We believe that Israel’s best hope for safety and security lies in a stable, enduring, and comprehensive peace with its neighbours – and that this means two states for two peoples. Only a two-state solution can ensure what we most want: a safe, secure and democratic national home for the Jewish people within universally-recognised borders, alongside a viable, sovereign and democratic state for the Palestinian people, allowing both nations to exercise at last their right to live as free peoples. The Israel Apartheid Week campaign is based on the false presumption that this conflict is about one race seeking to dominate another race underpinned by a supremacist ideology. Our understanding of the conflict is one between two peoples with equally just but conflicting claims to land and rights to national self-determination. IAW also presents one side of the conflict as completely guilty and one as completely innocent. We appreciate the complexity of the history and context to the conflict and current situation. The rhetoric of Israel Apartheid week ignores Israel’s basic right to exist. Its tactics are antagonistic and divisive, limiting the conversation that can occur around the issues.

Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. With ISIS and other forms of Islamic Terror on the increase and the current situation in Syria why are you criticising Israel?

As passionate Zionists and Jews with strong commitments to Israel, we reject the notion that ISIS or Al Qaeda represent proper comparisons by which to judge conditions in the West Bank military court system. In 1999, the Israeli Supreme Court argued that “The interrogation practices of the police in a given regime are indicative of a regime’s very character.” The court continued: “A democracy must sometimes fight with one hand tied behind its back. Even so, a democracy has the upper hand. The rule of law and the liberty of an individual constitute important components in its understanding of security. At the end of the day, they strengthen its spirit and this strength allows it to overcome its difficulties.”

How do I better understand these issues?

For more information explore our website. Visit The Issue for in-depth information about the military court system and Further info for links to extensive reporting written about the detention of Palestinian juveniles. Yachad run a variety of single and multi-day educational trips to the West Bank which enable British Jews to learn about these issues. For more information visit their website http://www.yachad.org.uk

How can you get involved?

Donate to the campaign

Join us at an event with Israeli lawyer Nery Ramati, and invite someone from your Synagogue

Email the Israeli Ambassador to tell him this issue concerns you

Hold your own fundraiser or education session. Email kidscourtinconflict@gmail.com for more info.