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Evidence update: hand ties

[12 October 2020] – Following multiple complaints concerning the painful use of plastic hand ties on Palestinians in the West Bank, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) filed a petition in the Supreme Court in 2009.[1] Prior to judgment in 2010, lawyers for the State informed the Supreme Court that new regulations relating to the use of hand ties had been introduced to prevent pain and injury making the petition redundant. In general terms, these regulations stipulate that:

  • Hands should be tied in front unless security considerations require tying from behind;
  • Three plastic ties should be used, one around each wrist with one connecting the two;
  • There should be a finger space between the ties and each wrist; 
  • The ties should avoid causing suffering and much as possible; and
  • The officer in charge is responsible for ensuring compliance with these regulations. 
Three years later, UNICEF issued a report into the treatment of children held in Israeli military detention and concluded that “the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized.” The evidence indicated that the regulations introduced in 2010 were not being implemented. This prompted UNICEF to recommend that “the use of single plastic hand ties should be prohibited in all circumstances”; “restraining methods should not cause unnecessary pain or suffering”; and “the prohibition should be effectively monitored and enforced”. 
Following the release of the UNICEF report, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it would study the conclusions and work to implement the recommendations through on-going co-operation with UNICEF.[2] The Military Advocate General (MAG) designated the “Military Prosecutor for Judea and Samaria (West Bank) as the focal point for dialogue on this issue with UNICEF.”[3] Subsequently, the Military Prosecutor informed UNICEF that:[4]
  • In May 2013, the military’s legal advisor for the West Bank issued a letter to the heads of all Brigades, Divisions, Police and Military Police operating in the West Bank reminding all units of existing standard operating procedures and policies in relation to the arrest of children. Existing standard operating procedures stipulate that: hand-tying should be done at the discretion of the head of forces and always with three plastic ties.
  • The Military Prosecutor clarified that the standard operating procedures address the subject of restraint and blindfolding, and stipulate that these practices can only be adopted if specific security requirements require. The Military Prosecutor further explained that, upon arrest, children may be restrained with three plastic hand-ties only, according to operational guidelines. 
  • The use of a single plastic restraint is prohibited. If only one plastic restraint is used, the military prosecutor must be informed. Military units are also instructed to conduct arrests without restraint and blindfold, unless there is a security or operational requirement; and
  • The Israeli police stated that it does not use instruments of restraint during interrogation, unless there is a risk of violence emanating from the specific suspect. 
Evidence collected by Military Court Watch (MCW) indicates that the use of hand restraints, predominantly plastic ties, is as prevalent today as it was in 2013 and that the regulations introduced in 2010 continue to be ignored. So far in 2020, 95 percent of children detained report being hand tied and in 90 percent of these cases the standard operating procedures for their use were ignored. In 40 percent of these cases single plastic hand ties were used and in 45 percent of cases the child remained restrained during police interrogation. 
This year children continue to describe their restraints in the following terms: “very tight and painful”; “caused pain”; “very tight and painful and I lost sensation in my palms”; “caused me a lot of pain”; “painful and left marks on my wrists”; “extremely tight and painful and left marks on my wrists for weeks”; and “the tie was so tight that it cut through my wrists and I bled”. MCW will continue to monitor developments. 

[1] Public Committee Against Torture in Israel v Prime Minister of Israel (HCJ 5553/09)
[2] UNICEF Bulletin No. 1 (October 2013) – available at
[3] The Military Prosecutor in the West Bank at the time was Lt. Col. Maurice Hirsch, a resident of an illegal West Bank settlement. In November 2016, Hirsch left his post as Military Prosecutor in order to take up a consultancy position with the non-governmental organisation NGO Monitor.
[4] UNICEF Bulletin No. 2 (February 2015) – available at