General Information The Juvenile Military Court
The Juvenile Military Court Print E-mail

The New Law for Juveniles [1],  which went into effect in Israel in July 2009, led to significant changes in Israel's internal law. These changes are intended to implement the rights of minors in criminal proceedings given the fundamental principle of the minor's best interests, and placing proper weight on considerations of rehabilitation and integration into society. For this purpose, the law determined, inter alia, significant restrictions on the procedures for detention and interrogation of minors and special instructions for judging them.

On 29.7.2009, parallel to the enactment of this far-reaching reform in Israeli law, which does not apply to courts in the occupied territories, the IDF Commander in the West Bank signed Amendment No. 109 to the Defense Order. This amendment calls for the establishment of a military juvenile court, and determines, inter alia, that its deliberations should take place, as far as possible, in a place and at a time when trials for adults are not being held. The amendment also instructs that the minors should be separated from the adults while in prison and, if possible, when they are brought to the court and while being held there.

This amendment's significance is mainly declarative and insufficient to bring about a substantial improvement in the status of Palestinian minors from the West Bank involved in a criminal proceeding, this for several reasons: the amendment does not relate at all to detention and interrogation of minors before bringing them to trial, despite the fact that preserving the minor's rights during these critical stages has a decisive influence on the judicial process. According to the amendment, the military juvenile court is not even qualified to discuss matters of detention and release of minors; this can only take place in the main trial after an indictment is lodged. Consequently, procedures for the detention of minors are held in courts that are not juvenile courts, in places where there is no separation between adults and minors, with no arrest report being filed [2],  and juveniles are appearing before judges who are not qualified to judge juveniles. Moreover, contrary to both Israel and international law, which both define a minor as being younger than 18, this amendment states that in military courts only those juveniles under 16 years old shall be considered minors.

It is clear that while Israel itself enacted a far-reaching criminal law reform regarding the status of minors, only a minimal and partial change was made in the military law on the West Bank. In terms of criminal legislation, the existing gaps between minors in Israel and Palestinian minors in the West Bank actually increased. The Military Court of Appeals reduced these gaps to some extent when it ruled that despite the fact that the new law for juveniles does not apply to military courts, the law's underlying principles [3]  could not be ignored. However, there is no doubt that in criminal proceedings protection of the rights of Palestinian minors who live in the West Bank, is still far from the minimum standards fixed by Israeli and international law. For these minors, the principle of best interests of the minor has retreated before another overriding principle derived from the concept of Israel's security.<


[1] Amendment No. 14 to the Youth (Adjudication, Punishment and Methods of Treatment) Law-1971 published on 30.07.08 and went into effect one year later.

[2] In arrest proceedings in Israel the court is authorized to order compilation of an arrest report containing the detainee's personal details, the significance of the arrest, alternatives to the arrest or release, or recommendations regarding special conditions for releasing the detainee on bail and their ensuing supervision. Samech 21a of the Criminal Procedure Law, (Enforcement Authorities-Detainees) 5796-1996

[3] Ayin Mem 2912/09 The Military Prosecutor vs. Nashmi Abu Rachama

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