Palestinian Girl’s Detention Raises Rights Concerns

Tomorrow, an Israeli military court will put on trial Ahed Tamimi, a 17-year-old Palestinian girl whose rights a military judge has already disregarded. Tamimi’s village, Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank, is the site of weekly protests by Palestinians over confiscated land. On December 15, two soldiers entered her family’s front yard. She slapped and shoved them, but they did not report the incident; she was arrested only after a video of it went viral and Israeli politicians demanded her punishment.

At her bail hearing in January, Tamimi’s lawyer noted that international human rights law permits the detention of children only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. But the military judge ruled that he “did not think the articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child should be viewed as absolute.” Tamimi’s lawyer also argued that Tamimi’s detention inside Israel violated article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the occupying power from transferring people, even temporarily, out of the occupied territory. The judge held that the transfer is authorized by an emergency regulation that “has precedence over international law.”

Instead of pre-trial detention, Tamimi’s lawyer proposed she could report to a police station outside her village every Friday, the day residents hold weekly protests against the confiscation of their lands by a settlement. The judge ruled this was not an “effective alternative.” Tamimi turned 17 in jail two weeks later.

The military justice system is discriminatory, Tamimi’s lawyer argued, because only Palestinians are subjected to it and deprived of protections that Israeli defendants enjoy. Israeli children, for instance, are interviewed by a probation officer, who must seek out alternatives to detention; Tamimi had no such interview. Tamimi’s lawyer contested one of her charges, for a crime allegedly committed in April 2016, because under Israeli law the statute of limitations for children is one year. But it is two years under military law, the judge ruled.

Tamimi’s pre-trial detention – 56 days and counting – is both a violation of international law and unnecessary. Her case raises concerns that Israel’s military justice system, which detains hundreds of Palestinian children every year, is incapable of respecting children’s rights.