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Problems Defending Palestinians in Israeli Courts

By       Message Stephen Lendman     Permalink
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Problems Defending Palestinians in Israeli Courts - by Stephen Lendman

Established in 1992, the Addameer (Arabic for conscience) Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association provides support for Palestinian prisoners and works to end torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions, other forms of abuse, and unjust and unequal treatment in Israel's criminal justice system that handles Jews one way and Palestinians another.

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In January 2007, it published a report titled "Defending Palestinian Prisoners: A Report on the Status of Defense Lawyers in Israeli Courts" in which it explained obstacles lawyers face in representing Palestinians in military and civil courts. They're hampered by military orders, Israeli laws, and prison procedures that prevent them from adequately helping clients - from their time of arrest through detention, trial, imprisonment, appeal, and other constraints against justice.

Yet international law is clear and unequivocal. Article 2, section 3(b)(c) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states:

....persons "shall have (the) right (to effective remedy through a) competent judicial, administrative or legislative (authority), or by any other competent authority provided for the legal system of the State (to) ensure that the competent authorities shall enforce (judicial) remed(ies)."

Article 14, section 1 states:

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"All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals (and) shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law." They shall "be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law."

They're also entitled to competent counsel, may meet with them in confidence, and censorship of their written and oral communications is prohibited.

Addameer's report is based on interviews, from May - July 2006, with 14 defense attorneys representing Palestinian clients. Their accounts show what Arabs are up against in Israel's criminal justice system, one imprisoning over 650,000 Palestinians since 1967, detaining between 9,000 - 12,000 or more at any time, many hundreds administratively without charges or trial, hundreds aged 18 or younger, and dozens of women.

Palestine is under an oppressive military occupation. At times of political tension, the IDF detains large numbers of Palestinians "because the regulations that govern Israeli military tribunals provide little procedural protection to detainees." From March - October 2000, over 15,000 West Bank Palestinians were arrested. Over 1,000 were held in administrative detention without charge.

Procedural flexibility lets military prosecutors process large number of cases swiftly to the disadvantage of defendants. Most are settled by one-sided plea bargains. In 2005, nearly 10,000 cases were handled. Only 167 went to trial, and of those, 15 acquittals were won. In the same year, military courts conducted nearly 12,000 hearings to extend prisoner detentions and levied around $3 million in fines, nearly always against people acting freely or in self-defense as international law allows, suspected of doing it, or their family members as well as themselves.

Three types of courts have jurisdiction over Palestinians:

-- Palestinian civil ones not covered in this report;

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-- Israeli military courts, Ofer and Salem, located on Israeli military bases; they prosecute Palestinians accused of self-defense, attending a demonstration, putting up political posters proclaiming Palestinian rights, displaying the Palestinian flag or other symbols, or doing anything authorities say threaten Israeli security; and

-- Israeli civil courts handling Israeli Arabs and West Bank and Gaza Palestinians accused of whatever officials call a crime; "due process protection under Israeli civil law (is compromised for) defendants accused of being security threats," with or without evidence to prove it.

Administrative detention is oppressive and frequently used. It lets military authorities hold prisoners indefinitely without charge, on secret evidence withheld at the discretion of prosecutors from detainees and their counsel. Under military orders and Israeli law, commanders may order prisoners held for six months and can renew detentions indefinitely.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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