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Eyes on Israeli Military Court: A Collection of Impressions

[Image from addameer.org] [Image from addameer.org]

[The following report was issued by Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association on 4 June 2012.] 

Eyes on Israeli Military Court: A Collection of Impressions 

Introduction

This booklet encompasses a series of reflections on the experience of Addameer volunteers and associates who visited the Israeli military courts situated in the occupied Palestinian territory from 2009 to 2011. The contributors were asked to write about what they saw and how they felt during their time at the court, where they witnessed hearings for Palestinians accused of stone-throwing, involvement in demonstrations and other political activities deemed an offense according to Israeli military regulations. They saw Palestinians of all ages and backgrounds being tried in the courts, including minors, and the treatment of their families and lawyers during the hearings.

The aim of these impressions is to offer an insight into the workings of a military court system which is under-reported, under-exposed, and has been labeled both a "kangaroo court" and "Kafka-esque" by observers, owing to its disregard of basic fair trial standards and the chaos of its proceedings.

The impressions originate from a range of people from different backgrounds, some of whom have drawn out the stark contrasts between the military court and the judicial system that most people in the Western world are used to, as well as the worrying comparisons with the system operating in Guantanamo Bay. A common thread throughout the impressions is how the security checks, the long waits before being let into the courtroom, and the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli military judges and officers portray the Israeli occupation in microcosm. Indeed, the Israeli military court is but one of many expressions of an apartheid system which discriminates against Palestinians of all ages and backgrounds on a daily basis, by identifying many of them as a "security threat" before they are even arrested, and by subjecting them to a legal system in which the onus falls on the Defense to prove their innocence. Also highlighted are the hopes, steadfastness, and humility of the prisoners as they appear shackled in the court room, as well as the subtle acts of resistance as family members attempt to communicate with their loved ones and make plans with them for the future.

The continuing presence of international and Israeli human rights activists at any court hearing for Palestinian political prisoners has been vital as a way of publicly exposing the extreme inadequacies and injustice of the military court, as will be demonstrated in this booklet. Following the arrest and detention of a number of leaders from the Palestinian popular resistance and peaceful protest movement, some of whose trials are referred to in this booklet, the European diplomatic community started to implement a court monitoring rotation system, whereby a European Union (EU) representative is present at every single hearing of a Palestinian defined as a human rights defender. This too has been crucial in pressuring the military judges to abide by international law and respect fair trial standards when overseeing the trials of peaceful activists from the popular resistance. The greater and more regular presence of these diplomats and activists, the more hope there is among the detainees that their voices are being heard and amplified beyond the confines of the military court room.

What follows is a brief overview of the military court system and seven impressions from Addameer volunteers and associates, in an order which attempts to give insight into the entire process that awaits anyone - be it a family member of a detainee or an international activist - who attends a court hearing. Addameer would like to thank all those who shared their experiences and contributed to the production of this booklet.

[Click here to download the full report.] 

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