Observing military courts | מחסוםווטש
בית המשפט הצבאי עופר

Observing military courts

We observe in the military courts where Palestinian citizens living in the West Bank, who are subject to military laws and many other decrees issued by Israeli army commanders, are tried.

We follow the progress of the hearings, starting with the detention of the suspects on remand, up until and including the verdict and the sentence.

These proceedings are the “daily bread of affliction” of the Palestinians living in the occupied territories but are invisible and unknown to the Israeli public.

Our presence at these legal hearings enables us to expose the part played by the military legal system in implementing the occupation, and also to report on the critical injuries inflicted by the military courts upon Palestinian society, which is totally subject to their authority. (read more)


MachsomWatch Organization focuses on the restriction of movement that the IDF imposes on the Palestinian population. While monitoring checkpoints, we were made aware of another method used by the army that completely restricts the Palestinians’ freedom of movement: detention and imprisonment. We began observing the military courts in 2006 in an attempt to find out what happens after detention.

     International law allows an occupation army to establish military courts and prisons in areas under military occupation in order to judge the civilian population, provided such courts are located and operate in the occupied territories. But in Israel, some of the courts and detention facilities are inside Israeli territory. Thus,members of the detaineesinfo-icon` families and some attorneys who reside in the occupied territories require special permits, which are not always obtainable, in order to enter Israeli territory. Many hearings and trials take place in the absence of detainees’ and defendants’ family members, thus violating their civil rights and the right of the general public to know.

     There are two separate legal systems in Israel: one for Israelis, the other for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. The law prevailing in the Occupied Territories allows detention of a Palestinian for 96 hours (four days) before bringing him/her before a judge [“Due process of law”] An Israeli arrested by the police – even if he/she resides in the Territories – must be brought before a judge within 24 hours (one day). A judge may extend the detention of a Palestinian from the Occupied Territories by 60 days or (with additional authorization) by 90 days)before an indictment is presented to the court. In the case of an Israeli detainee, remand extension is limited to 30 days before the indictment is presented.

Palestinians who are minors are often taken from their homes in the middle of the night, then interrogated at night for long hours by interrogators who are often not qualified to deal with juveniles. Palestinian minors are not accompanied by parents, attorney or social worker; they are often incarcerated with adults in holding cells. Israeli minors are interrogated during daytime by qualified juvenile interrogators, in the presence of their parents, attorney or social worker. They are kept with other minors, separated from adult detainees.