On November 22, 2020, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to compel the Israeli security forces to cease the widespread practice of night arrests of Palestinian minors in the West Bank, and to rely on a summons via their parents as the first recourse when minors are wanted for interrogation. The petition was based on dozens of affidavits of minors who had been arrested from their homes late at night, collected by HaMoked for its 2020 report on the issue. The affidavits show that night arrests are highly traumatic and accompanied by numerous violations of basic rights, yet are used by the military as the default for bringing in minors for interrogation, without giving the minors the opportunity to arrive voluntarily in response to a summons.
On July 29, 2021, the state updated the court about a new classified procedure formulated by the military and the Israel Police regarding “the summoning of suspected minors before a pre-planned arrest in the Samaria and Judea Area [i.e., the West Bank]”. Under the procedure, it was announced, summons would not be used for minors “required for interrogation not by the Israel Police” (i.e. wanted for ISA interrogation) or minors suspected of “severe offences” or “with a criminal record of severe offences”. Knowing that the security forces regard a wide range of offences as “severe offences”, HaMoked expressed concern that little would actually change on the ground. At the end of the hearing of August 2, 2021, the court left the petition pending and ordered the state to submit an updating notice by February 1, 2022, which should include data on the procedure’s implementation; HaMoked would then be allowed to submit a revised petition.
On February 1, 2022, the State submitted the said updating notice, according to which, from September to December 2021, 34 Palestinian minors were arrested in the West Bank pursuant to the new procedure. Of them, only 6 were summoned for interrogation, and the others, 28 in number, were seized in pre-planned night arrests from their homes. These figures, even if incomplete, clearly indicate that the State persists in its policy of pre-planned night arrests of Palestinian minors in the West Bank in the vast majority of the cases. This conclusion is also supported by data provided by the Israel Police on February 17, 2022, in response to HaMoked’s freedom-of-information request. According to this response, even after the procedure came into force, Israeli security forces arrested dozens of Palestinian minors every month in night arrests: in August, 33 minors were arrested in night arrests; in September, 32; in October, 45; in November 50; and in December, 33 minors were arrested in pre-planned night arrests from their homes.
Therefore, on March 2, 2022, HaMoked submitted an updated petition to the HCJ, reiterating its demand that summons via the parents or legal guardian serve as the primary method for bringing Palestinian minors for interrogation, and that night arrests be used only in exceptional and severe cases. HaMoked also demanded that the new procedure be amended to bring about actual change on the ground, making summons the primary and routine method in the case of minors wanted for interrogation. HaMoked also demanded that the procedures for arresting minors in the oPt be amended to accord with the principle of the child’s best interest and in the spirit of Israel’s 2008 Youth Law (which does not apply in the oPt, other than to residents of the Israeli settlements and residents of annexed East Jerusalem).
HaMoked argued that six months after the procedure’s entry into force, it had become evident that the State failed in its – ostensible – attempt to improve the situation, as indicated by the various data. HaMoked stressed that “annually, hundreds of Palestinian minors undergo (and would continue to undergo, if the Respondents’ position is accepted) the traumatic experience of night invasions into their homes without any of the Respondents bothering to consider the alternative of summons in order to change this harsh and unacceptable reality”. HaMoked again asserted that the overarching principle in international and Israeli law alike was that the detention of a minor should be used by the authorities only as the last resort, after the purpose of the arrest could not be achieved any other means.