Exposing the Systemic Injustice of Military Courts in the West Bank

28 April 2022

Following a freedom of information request by NIF grantees Human Rights Defenders Fund through the Movement for Freedom of Information, Haaretz and other sources recently published chilling statistics about how Israel’s military court system functions in the West Bank.

Since the beginning of the Israeli military occupation in 1967, more than 200,000 cases have been brought before military courts in the West Bank. In these military courts, Palestinians are prosecuted and judged by military authorities even as Jewish settlers (who often live next door to these Palestinians) are entitled to trials in the Israeli civil court system. The data uncovered by NIF’s grantees shows that 96% of cases that appear before the military court system in the West Bank end in a conviction and that 99% of those convictions are the results of a plea bargain.

There are a great many differences between the way Israeli civil courts function and the West Bank military courts. For example, in military court, children as young as 12 years old can be handed prison sentences, which is unlawful under the Israeli civil legal system.

What’s more, all military court hearings are held in Hebrew, which many Palestinian defendants cannot understand. The judges, prosecutors, stenographers, and translators are all uniformed members of the military.

Israeli human rights lawyer Smadar Ben-Natan said, “Only a confession gets them out of detention and allows them to see an end to it all on the horizon. In some cases defendants spend more time in prison awaiting trial than the sentences they subsequently receive.”

Based on this new data, Haaretz published a major investigation into the West Bank military justice system headlined, Israel’s Other Justice System Has Rules of Its Own.

NIF grantees will continue to expose this systemic injustice and advocate for an end to Israel’s military occupation and the draconian and kafkaesque military courts for Palestinians in the West Bank.