A new report by the radical left-wing group B’Tselem, the contents of which were made public on Monday morning, claims that the IDF abused the legal rights of minors who were suspected of throwing stones at Jews in Judea and Samaria.
The report is based on B’Tselem’s tracking of dozens of court cases as well as on interviews with fifty minors arrested on suspicion of throwing stones and with their lawyers.
“Israeli law, as do laws in many other countries, gives minors suspected of violating the law more protection during criminal proceedings than to adults,” says the report. “However, in Judea and Samaria, martial law rarely gives such defenses and minors are tried almost like adults, even after the establishment of a Juvenile Court.”
According to the data presented in the report, 835 minors have been prosecuted on charges of throwing stones. Of them, 34 were aged 12-13, 255 were aged 14-15 and 546 were aged 16-17. The report notes that during the period examined, only one minor (0.11%) was acquitted. The martial law conviction rate, says B’Tselem, is much higher than corresponding conviction rates in the Israeli court system, which itself has a very high conviction rate.
The report also claims that 19 minors aged 12-13 who were convicted served a prison sentence of several days to two months, accounting for 60% of the total minors in this age group.
Also, the report says that 26% of minors aged 14-15 served a prison sentence of four months or more, and that among minors aged 16-17, approximately 59% served a prison sentence of four months or more.
“While stone throwing by youths and minors is a common crime in Judea and Samaria, no Israeli official could provide accurate data on its scope, and no official has any data on the number of victims of this offense,” B’Tselem said.
What could be provided by B'Tselem itself is the statistics on the lethal effects of this stone throwing, and that it is done with intent to kill, and has led to serious injuries and deaths of drivers and pedestrians. This might be brought as one of the reasons for alleged harsh measures against perpetrators.
One such victim was 18 year old Amitai Kapach, killed when he lost control of the car he was driving after a stone thrown by an Arab youth shattered the window.
The proliference of stone throwing is described in the report, as a "common offense", making it seem comparable to other "common offenses" of youngsters, such as crossing against the light.
“Violation of the rights of Palestinian minors starts already in their detention and interrogation,” continues the organization. “More than once are they arrested in the middle of the night and taken for questioning on their own, without being able to consult with their parents or with a lawyer. Violence is often used against them during arrest and interrogation.
“In most cases the judges accept the prosecution’s demand to keep the minors’ in detention pending completion of the trial,” B’Tselem conitnues. “This reality forces minors to make plea bargains, since conducting a full trial, even if it leads to acquittal, takes longer than the punishment that would be exacted on them as part of a plea bargain. The judicial system sees the prison as the primary means of punishing minors and almost never takes into account other options. During the period of incarceration, minors rarely receive visits from their families and many restrictions are imposed on them which make it difficult for them to complete their studies.”
B’Tselem urges the Israeli authorities to immediately equate the provisions of military law to the provisions of the Israeli youth law and to equate the age of majority of Arabs to that of Israelis. There is no problem of stone throwing on the part of Israeli Jewish youth.
The radical group often uses this tactic of publishing reports aimed at damaging Israel’s standing. A previous report claimed that Israel has instituted a policy in the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea that exploits the resources of the area more intensively than in the rest of Judea and Samaria.
That report claimed the reason for this policy is that Israel intends to annex the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea, areas returned to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War but not annexed officially.
Last year, the group issued a report which declared, without supporting data, that 21 percent of the built-up areas within the Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria are private Arab property. Legal advisors to the Judea and Samaria Councils said the claims are fabrications.
The report was released on the same day as a meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, leading some to say that the organization timed it in order to sabotage Israel-U.S. relations.