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Israeli NGOs defend justice and rights in the West Bank

Following broadcast last night of the ABC Four Corners programme “Stone Cold Justice”, Robin Margo S.C., president of NIF Australia, said: “The application of military justice to Palestinian juveniles in the West Bank has long been of concern to Israeli NGOs. And the Israeli Government, to its credit, accepts that raising such concerns is a proper function of its national human rights organisations.”

Margo noted that Israel cooperated in UNICEF’s enquiry, that UNICEF has welcomed improvements over the years in the treatment of Palestinian minors, both in detention and in military legal proceedings, and that Israel undertook to work towards implementing further improvements after the UNICEF report last year.

But he added that more remains to be done and referred to a statement made on 31 December 2013 by The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), NIF’s flagship grantee:

“For many years ACRI has worked to defend the rights of Palestinian children within criminal proceedings in the Occupied Palestinian Territories - during their detention, arrest, interrogation, trial and imprisonment. Positive changes have been made to the military legislation that touches upon these issues over the last few years, yet there are still serious deficiencies that lead to the serious and systematic violation of the rights of minors in the military legal system.

Israeli children living in Jewish settlements in the West Bank are subjected to Israeli criminal legislation and are tried in civilian courts in Israel. By contrast, Palestinian minors living in the same territory are subjected to harsher military justice. Following an ACRI petition to the High Court of Justice, some of the positive changes that were adopted included the establishment of a Military Juvenile Court, raising the age of maturity from 16 to 18 and shortening detention periods for both Palestinians adults and minors. However a significant disparity still exists between the standard of protections applied to Palestinian minors living in the Occupied Territories and the standards demanded by international law.”

He said more than a dozen Israelis (not all Jewish) have been murdered by stoning or rock throwing, and many more injured, but there is strong concern also that there have been virtually no arrests or convictions of Jewish criminals who direct “price tag” attacks primarily against Palestinians in the West Bank.

“Problems of this kind, and the suffering on both sides, will likely continue as long as one people exercises military rule over another. People of goodwill should therefore support efforts to assist Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a comprehensive peace.”