Detention Periods for Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories

Israeli settlers who live in the occupied Palestinian territories are subject to Israeli civil law and its judiciary system. As such, if they are suspects in a crime, their rights are protected, as determined by Israeli law. On the other hand, Palestinian residents who live in the exact same area are subject to military law, as legislated by the IDF military commander, whose laws are much more rigid. It is hard to describe a more grave violation of a person’s dignity and rights than this deplorable situation, in which people who live alongside each other are distinguished and treated entirely differently just because of their nationality.


The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Yesh Din and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel petitioned the High Court of Justice on May 10th 2010 against the discriminatory and exaggerated arrest periods that apply to Palestinians living in the West Bank. The organizations have demanded the arrest periods determined by military law in the territories be compared to the periods that apply to arrest periods for Israelis who live in the territories. The petition argues that the exaggerated arrest periods severely violate the basic rights of Palestinian residents: their right to freedom, to due process, and the right to dignity and equality. These violations blatantly contradict international law and the principles of Israeli law, which apply to Israeli authorities everywhere they operate. These protracted arrest periods, together with other restrictions imposed on the majority of Palestinian arrestees – such as being prevented from meeting with a lawyer – allow a person to be held under arrest for long periods of time, isolated from the world and stripped of supervision and control over the conditions of arrest and investigation. Such a situation leaves room for inappropriate treatment by the authorities and the employment of unethical methods of investigation.


The hearing of the petition was combined with the discussion of an additional petition to shorten arrest periods, as filed by Attorney Smadar Ben Natan.


As a result of the petition, several amendments were made to the military legislation, which included a significant reduction in some of the arrest periods that apply to Palestinian minors and adults. However, there is still a disparity between the arrest periods that apply to Israelis and Palestinians in the territories.


On April 6, 2014, the High Court of Justice handed down a partial judgement on two petitions against the excessive and discriminatory detention periods applicable to Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories (as opposed to Israelis who live in the very same areas). The High Court ordered the state to reconsider its position on three issues: detention periods for Palestinian minors, pre-indictment detention periods for adults suspected of offenses that are not defined as security offenses, and the maximum detention periods from indictment until the end of the trial. The Court ordered the state to file its response by September 15, 2014.


The Court rejected the petition with regard to pre-indictment detention periods for Palestinian adults suspected of offences defined as security offences (a term broadly defined in the military legislation to include such offenses as organizing an illegal protest), ruling the detention periods reasonable and proportionate, in light of changes enacted by the military in response to the petition. This despite the fact that the detention periods are still significantly longer than those that are applicable to Israeli settlers, who are subject to Israeli law.


In March 2017, the State’s letter of response to the order nisi in the petition was submitted to the Court and included recommendations for additional reductions in arrest periods – especially regarding the arrest periods that apply to minors and those that apply to remand until the end of proceedings. On April 18, 2017, a complementary sentence in the petition was handed down. The Court ordered the military commander to further reduce the arrest periods, but accepted the State’s request to apply these reductions only as of May 2018. In addition, the Court left the military commander with the discretional authority to change the arrest periods in the future if he finds it suitable for reasons of security.


To read more background on the case, click here

To access a table outlining the discriminatory detention periods, click here

To access the relevant legal documents including the petition and the verdict in Hebrew, click here

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Categories: The Occupied Territories


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