Evidence update: Documentation in Hebrew
[10 October 2022] – In 2013, following an extensive review of the treatment of children held in Israeli military detention, UNICEF found evidence indicating that Palestinian children and their parents were frequently presented with documentation written in Hebrew by Israeli military authorities at the time of arrest, during interrogation and in the military courts. This finding prompted UNICEF to recommend, inter alia, that:
- Copies of all relevant documentation, including arrest warrants and summons for questioning, should be provided to the child’s legal guardian or close family member at the time of arrest or as soon as possible thereafter, and all documentation should be provided in Arabic;
- All children and their legal guardian or close family member shall be provided with a written statement in Arabic informing them of their full legal rights while in custody; and
- All confessions written in Hebrew and signed or adopted by a Palestinian child should be rejected as evidence by the military courts.
At the time of making these recommendations, the evidence indicated that Palestinian children in the military detention system were being shown, or made to sign, documentation written in Hebrew in 62 percent of cases. Almost a decade later, Palestinian children and/or their parents are being presented with documentation in Hebrew in 80 percent of cases. Common examples of this practice include:
Summonses - A pilot scheme to issue summonses in lieu of night arrests was introduced in 2014 following the widespread criticism of the practice of detaining children at night. Since January 2021, less than 2 percent of children report having been served with a written summons, and in 50 percent of these cases, the summons was written in Hebrew.[i]
N.N.R.T. (14 years) (24 October 2021) - "My father woke me up at around 3:15 a.m. and told me Israeli soldiers were in our home [...] A soldier gave my father a document summoning me to the police station in the morning. The summons was written in Hebrew and we could not read it but the soldier explained it to us. He did not give us any reasons as to why I was being summonsed."
Notification of arrest - In April 2013, Israeli military authorities informed UNICEF that a standard form written in Arabic and Hebrew must be given to parents of children arrested at home in every case. Since January 2021, documents were only being provided in 49 percent of cases, and in 63 percent of these cases, the documents were written in Hebrew.
B.A.M.I. (12 years) (27 July 2022) - "Suddenly a group of Israeli soldiers surrounded the area. It was 2:00 a.m. [...] Then the soldiers gave my father a document with details about my arrest filled out in Hebrew. The document had a phone number my parents could call but when they called no one answered."
Legal rights in custody - In December 2013, Israeli military authorities informed UNICEF that "a revised Arabic text to notify children arrested for alleged security offenses of their rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to legal counsel" was currently in use. Since January 2021, this document was being shown to Palestinian children at the commencement of their interrogation in just 6 percent of cases.
J.M.D.Z. - (17 years) (25 April 2022) - "At the first interrogation, the interrogator tied my hands to a chair. He wore civilian clothes. He asked me if I wanted to speak to a lawyer and I told him I did. He phoned a lawyer but the lawyer did not answer. I asked him to call another lawyer but he refused and told me he would call one later. Then he showed me a document in Arabic and Hebrew with details about my rights including my right to remain silent."
Statements given under interrogation - Whilst all interrogations of Palestinian children are conducted in Arabic, they are also simultaneously transcribed in Hebrew. Since January 2021, Palestinian children were being shown, and/or asked to sign these Hebrew transcriptions at the conclusion of the interrogation in 56 percent of cases. In no cases where these statements include confessional evidence is this material being excluded by the military courts.
A.M.H.S. - (16 years) (29 April 2022) - "Then, without informing me of my right to silence, the interrogator accused me of entering Jerusalem without a permit. Then he accused me of weapons possession and of membership of a banned organisation. I confessed to attempting to enter Jerusalem without a permit but denied the other accusations. I was questioned for about 10 minutes and then the interrogator told me to sign papers written in Hebrew and I signed without understanding anything."
Court documents - Proceedings in the military courts are conducted in Hebrew with some translation of varying quality provided by Druze soldiers. Court documentation, such as charge sheets and court transcripts, continue to be provided for the most part, in Hebrew.
Judgments of the court - Although proceedings in the military courts are bound by precedent, judgments of the court, and appellate decisions, are exclusively provided in Hebrew - placing Palestinian defence lawyers at a distinct disadvantage.
- Evidence update: Solitary confinement (December 2021)
- Evidence update: Forcible transfer of children (January 2022)
- Evidence update: Night arrests and summonses (February 2022)
- Evidence update: Floor transfer (July 2022)
- Evidence update: Physical violence (September 2022)
[i] The evidence consists of 115 testimonies collected by MCW between January 2021 and September 2022.