The treatment of Palestinian minors in Israeli military courts came under scrutiny once again at 2014 spring as the minors’ right to socio-psychological evaluation was first challenged by IDF prosecutors and then ultimately upheld by the military court.
The purpose of evaluation is to determine whether alternatives to serving a jail sentence might be appropriate for the children. Presenting such evaluations, either by defense attorneys or by a state welfare officer following a request by the judge, often results in shorter sentences, time served in rehabilitation rather than prison for the minor in custody, and in fewer repeated detentions. In 2009, the court did decide to allow for psychological evaluations of Palestinian minors, but only during their sentencing, and not while they were remanded – a different set of standards than those that apply to Israeli children.
In an article from May 23rd, 2014, Chaim Levinson reported for Israeli newspaper Haaretz that military prosecutors objected to allowing Palestinian minors under remand in the West Bank to be evaluated by social workers. Levinson provided background for the objection in pointing out that Israeli military courts regularly push for the detention of Palestinian minors for the duration of their trial, resulting in a situation in which “the military prosecution in the West Bank…usually offers a plea bargain in which the teen confesses in exchange for a sentence of time served.”
In a follow-up article on June 5th, 2014, Levinson reported that the president of the IDF military appellate court, Col. Netanel Beniso, ruled against the army in this case, confirming the right of Palestinian minors to receive psychological evaluation in order for the court to decide whether they are to be remanded for the duration of their trial. Despite this progress, there is still a significant gap between the rights of Palestinian children in military courts and the rights of Israeli children in civil courts: evaluation for Israeli children is mandatory and is administered by representatives of the state itself while the child is in remand; while Palestinian children are usually only eligible for a private evaluation after a special request has been made by defense attorney, often granted long after the arrest. In August 2014 Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein have published his opinion according to which military court judges should be allowed to request psychological evaluations of arrested Palestinian minors before deciding whether to extend their detention. AG added that the juvenile military court system should assume the “a minor is a minor”.