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Pilot programme to limit night arrests - update

[22 September 2016] – Following widespread criticism of the use of night raids to arrest children in the West Bank, the military authorities announced in February 2014, the introduction of a pilot programme to issue written summonses in lieu of night arrests.

The programme commenced operation in the Nablus and Hebron districts but was temporarily suspended in or about September 2014 due to “increased violence”. At the time of the suspension the military authorities stated that they did not keep any statistics during the initial operation of the programme making any official assessment impossible.
During the initial operation of the programme, UNICEF documented 24 cases in which summonses were used in lieu of arresting children at night but noted that some of the summonses were delivered by the military during night-time raids - a practice the summons was intended to avoid. Evidence collected by MCW also confirms that summonses were delivered in the middle of the night or via telephone without any documentation being provided to the family in many cases.
In or about March 2015 the military authorities re-started the programme in the West Bank. According to evidence collected by MCW, summonses were issued in 10 per cent of cases in 2015, but included a number of troubling features:
  • 63 per cent of summonses were 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 authorities acknowledge 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 go home; and
  • No reference to the child’s legal rights was included in any summons.
During the course of 2016 there appears to have been a sharp decrease in the use of summonses which are currently being issued in just 2 per cent of cases documented by MCW. Meanwhile, the practice of arresting children at night is currently unchanged and remains at 2013 levels.
Whilst it has been recognized that arresting children at night may be necessary in exceptional circumstances, many children are 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.
Evidence collected by MCW indicates that the overwhelming majority of Palestinian children arrested in the West Bank in night-arrest operations live within a few kilometres of an Israeli settlement or road used by the settlers, strongly suggesting a close link between illegal settlement activity and the detention of Palestinian civilians living in the vicinity.
The most recent case documented by MCW in which a summons was issued occurred in May 2016 when the military delivered a summons written in Hebrew at 2:00 a.m in the West Bank village of Beit Fajjar, located approximately 0.5 kilometres from the settlement of Miggdal Oz.
MCW will continue to monitor night arrests and the programme to issue summonses.