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Palestine – the legal hell

ana-en | 14.06.2006 19:35 | Anti-militarism | Repression | World

The legal system in Palestine and Israel. There are three legal systems, completely separated; the civil system, the military system and the Ministry of Interior.

The civil system is for Israeli nationals: If you are arrested, you need to be charged. So in that sense it is similar to a western democratic system. The arrested person has rights, like a phone call, a lawyer... S/he can only be held for 24 hours without a judge warrant. With a warrant, the maximum is 30 days.

The Palestinians who don't have Israeli citizenship are subject to a regime that doesn't differ much from a military system. This system is for the occupied territories of Palestine. The accused person can be held for up to 8 days without a judge warrant (now they want to make it 50), and with a warrant there is no maximum of days s/he can be held.

In this system, the hearings are just a bureaucracy for granting this warrant.

The last one is for the internationals. It has been created only recently, thinking of the illegal workers that came from neighbouring countries to fill the gap left by the Palestinians when they had to leave because they were no longer allowed to work in Israel. It is under this system that internationals get deported. Internationals can be deported on 'security grounds' that can include filming an arrest, or an assault, or even being the victim of one, by settlers – they will claim you assaulted them and of course the soldiers, the police and the judges will believe them.

Palestinians tried in the military system can also appeal in the civil system. However, there is not much hope in a system where the only people who can become a judge are Zionist Jews (those who believe that every Jew has the right to return to Israel and be the landlord of the place – the rights of the previously existing population in Israel are not taken into account by Zionism).

These three systems have different laws, different tribunals and different police forces.
In the civil system, for the Israelis, in order to jail someone it has to be proven that s/he is guilty. The accused person can only be detained for 24 hours maximum before being put in front of a judge, although the judge can extend this to up to 30 days. In the military system, the defence has to prove that the accused is innocent so that s/he is not jailed, but does not have the right to know what s/he is accused of. A Palestinian can be interrogated without a lawyer present, and without charges, for 8 days, and once a warrant is asked to extend this (judges are military as well and it is very rare that the warrant is not conceded), there is no limit as to how long s/he can be interrogated.

Some even get detained for a crime that have not committed yet but might commit - all this being secret information, on a secret file. The charge is secret, or simply that s/he might do something that could compromise the security of the state... S/he has a lawyer but the lawyer won't know the charge. And, when talking a bout detention, the jail is usually a tent in the dessert.

It is also interesting to know that in occupied territories there is a Palestinian police, which has no real power, and in non-occupied territories there is an Israeli police, which is not seen in the occupied territories. I am told that, in the past, Palestinian police have been shot by the army – for them they are just armed Palestinians, therefore terrorists - so you will never see any Palestinian police anywhere near a checkpoints or any military vehicle.

So in these occupied territories, the real policing power lies with the army. The mission of this army is to defend the Israelis that live in occupied land, and they are called settlers. This has the following consequences: if a Palestinian throws stones to some settlers, soldiers has the duty to defend the settlers, so they have the power to detain the Palestinian. If it is the settlers that throw stones, the soldiers' duty is still to defend the settlers, they have no power to arrest a settler even if they want to (or an international). At the most, they can detain them and call the police so that they are arrested. What usually happens is that the settlers say that the Palestinian (or the international) attacked them before and they acted in self defence. Of course the judge will believe the settlers because he's Jewish himself. It is not rare that settlers attack, and even kill, Palestinians and easily get away with it, most times they are not even arrested - let's remember the soldiers are also Jews.

Other things that are interesting to highlight are:
there are about seven hundred (700) military checkpoints on the roads in Palestine.

Since the Gaza disengagement, flying checkpoints have increased about 300% according to the UN.

For the Palestinians, the settlers are more dangerous than the soldiers.

They often carry arms and they always have live ammunition, not rubber bullets or tear gas bullets like the soldiers.

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  1. Palestine, a living Hell — Allyson Rowen Taylor