A pilot scheme to issue summonses in lieu of night arrests was introduced in 2014. The scheme’s introduction followed widespread criticism of the practice of detaining children at night. The programme was initially operated in the Nablus and Hebron districts but was temporarily suspended in or about September 2014 due to “increased violence”. The military authorities stated that they did not keep any statistics during the initial operation of the programme making any meaningful internal assessment impossible.
During 2014, UNICEF documented 24 cases in which summonses were used in lieu of arresting minors at night but noted that some of the summonses were delivered by the military during night-time raids and violations continued to be reported during the interrogation phase. Evidence collected by MCW confirms that summonses were delivered in the middle of the night or via telephone without documentation.
The programme was restarted in or about March 2015, but with a number of troubling features:
- In most cases summonses continued to be delivered by the military after midnight;
- Relevant parts of the summonses were handwritten in Hebrew without Arabic translation;
- Relevant information, such as the nature of the accusation, was missing;
- Although the military acknowledges that there is a discretion to permit a parent to accompany a child during interrogation, this safeguard was denied and the parent was made to wait outside the interrogation centre or sent home; and
- No reference to the child’s legal rights was included in the summons.
Whilst it has been recognized that night arrests may be necessary in exceptional circumstances, many children were released within a few days without charge, raising questions about the necessity for a terrifying military raid on the child’s home in the middle of the night.
By 2020 the programme had become largely defunct and the military authorities again confirmed that no records were maintained, thus casting doubt on the bona fides of the programme's implementation. On 1 August 2021, the military authorities stated that they had introduced new procedures for summonsing children in lieu of night arrests. While the procedures remain classified, the authorities have indicated that summonses will not be used if:
- The child is wanted for interrogation by an agency other than the police; or
- The child is suspected of a "severe offence" (undefined) or has a record of committing "severe offences".
MCW will monitor the situation but experience suggests that most children will fall within the exclusions and will continue to be arrested at night.
Updated: October 2021