Pilot study to end night arrests suspended
[29 January 2015] – 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 devastating effect of repeated night-time incursions into Palestinian communities by the Israeli military.
On 15 January 2015, the Dutch Foreign Minister, Bert Koenders, provided the Dutch Parliament with an update on progress made in implementing the pilot programme. According to the Foreign Minister’s statement, much of the information provided to Parliament was obtained during meetings with Israel’s chief military prosecutor in the West Bank, Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Hirsch. The Foreign Minister’s statement included the following information:
- The pilot programme commenced in February 2014;
- The pilot programme was operational in the Nablus and Hebron districts in the West Bank;
- The pilot programme has now been suspended; and
- No statistics were kept by the military during the course of the pilot programme.
According to data collected by MCW, during the period in which the pilot programme was operational there was a five per cent reduction in the number of children arrested at night. However, in 67 per cent of cases in which summonses were used, they were delivered by the military after midnight in a process that continues to terrify the civilian population.
MCW submits that the following evidence indicates that no genuine attempt has been made by the military authorities to effectively replace night arrests with summonses and that the pilot programme has not been implemented in good faith:
- No details of the pilot study were made public to enable an independent assessment;
- Although described as a “pilot programme” the military authorities now concede that no statistics were kept which would enable internal or external assessment;
- Two-thirds of the summonses were delivered at night in terrifying military raids; and
- The military official responsible for the implementation of the pilot study resides in a West Bank settlement established in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention (Art. 49 as confirmed by the UN Security Council) and classified as a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Art. 8). The evidence indicates that repeated night-time raids by the Israeli military is an essential element in the military’s strategy of “demonstrating presence” in Palestinian villages located near settlements amounting to a systematic pattern of intimidation. These circumstances give rise to a clear perception of a conflict of interest.
In September 2014, MCW released a progress report following a review of 105 testimonies collected from children held in Israeli military custody and found that UNICEF’s 2013 assessment that “the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process” still remains valid today.