Backyard Proceedings is a Yesh Din report that provides a critical view of the military court system in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which is one of the cornerstones of Israeli rule in the West Bank for the last 40 years. Each year, thousands of Palestinian West Bank residents are tried in military courts in the West Bank, yet the operations of these courts are not made public. Very few studies and publications have examined the operations of these courts, and supervision over them is highly inadequate. Thanks to hundreds of observations conducted by Yesh Din volunteers, the report contains findings on the proceedings that take place within the military courts.
Backyard Proceedings examines the degree to which the military court system upholds and implements due process of law for Palestinian detainees and defendants. The report also evaluates authorities’ compliance with the defendant’s right to be informed of all charges laid against him or her, as well as the right to prepare an effective defense and to right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The report further examined whether the right to a public trial is applied in the military courts, how minors are adjudicated in this system, as well as other matters. The report also examines whether the security legislation that applies in the OPT meets the requirements of international law regarding due process rights.
The fidings of the research described in the report reveal a series of grave flaws and failures to implement due process rights in the military courts. The following issues are notable:
-From the data provided to Yesh Din, of 9,200 cases heard by the military courts in 2006, only 23 cases (0.29 percent) ended in total acquittal. This stastistic puts the implementation of presumption of innocence into serious question.
-From Yesh Din’s observations and the data provided to the organization, most defendants are held in detention, which is extended following brief hearings that last three minutes on average.
-Despite the fact that the principle of a public trial applies to military courts, only two relatives of detainees and defendents are permitted to attend a hearing, and in some of the cases, hearings are held inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders, presenting an obstacle for relatives to reach the hearings due to the permit regime.
-The defendants receive the indictments solely in Hebrew, a language the majority of the defendants do not understand.
-Some of the defendants and the detainees do not receive any legal representation at all.
Yesh Din presented recommendations for reforming legislation and policy on the basis of these findings, including:
-Shutting down military court operations inside Israeli territory.
-Removing all obstacles to the attendance of relatives of defendants and detainees
-Translation of indictments into Arabic
-Translation of court rulings into Arabic and English