In the House of Commons last night Wigan’s Labour MP Lisa Nandy (Shadow Minister for Children) described how she found herself disturbed by a recent visit to an Israeli military court after seeing how “Palestinian children were treated” and how they were found “guilty on flimsy evidence”. She said there was “no justice in the (Israeli legal) system”. Judging by Nandy’s articles she is no friend of Israel anyway.
The event was commemorating one year since the publication of Children in Military Custody, a report compiled by nine lawyers on a UK Foreign Office funded trip to the West Bank. The nine lawyers reported on:
1. The formal differences affecting Palestinian and Israeli children respectively in Israel’s criminal justice process and
2. The welfare of Palestinian child suspects.
Last night’s event was held to review whether the situation had improved for Palestinian child suspects since last year. You wouldn’t be shocked to hear that the answer given by Jude Lanchin was “not much”.
Lanchin, one of the nine lawyers and who, herself, works for Bindmans solicitors, said that apart from two military orders nothing much had changed on the ground for Palestinian child suspects. She highlighted the main procedural differences still affecting Palestinian and Israeli children respectively in the criminal justice process (see page 7 of the report).
During the Q&A I asked Ms Lanchin whether the procedural differences in the criminal justice process between Israeli and Palestinian child suspects could possibly be attributed to the difference in the nature of offences committed by Israeli and Palestinian children with Palestinian children being mainly arrested for stone throwing; a security/terrorist type offence that can kill and maim Israelis.
Unbelievably, Lanchin responded that there was too little evidence of death or injury caused by stone throwing. As the nine lawyer committee reported last year (see para 46):
We were grateful to receive a response to a comprehensive list of enquiries from the Israeli Government; however, the evidence was limited to one stone-throwing incident in September 2011 which caused the death of an adult and a child, and sight of a photograph of a man with fairly severe facial injuries.
“The evidence was limited” to two deaths? How many more do these lawyers want?
This is the same argument put forward when Israel is accused of acting disproportionately in defending itself against Kassam rockets that have killed relatively few Israelis but which are, still, deadly.
Stones, like Kassam rockets, kill and maim. Ask the family of the murdered “adult and child”: Asher Palmer and his infant son, Yonatan.
The report also criticises Israel’s welfare treatment of Palestinian child suspects. However, the evidence relied on by the nine lawyer committee is both mainly anonymous AND provided by organisations traditionally hostile to Israel like Breaking The Silence, Btselem and Defence for Children International Palestine, to name but a few.
A main criticism of Israel in the report is Israel’s arrest of Palestinian child suspects very late at night. Israel’s Ministry of Justice responded that “nighttime arrests are necessary for security” (see paras 51 and 52 of the report). The report recommends that a summons should be used instead, but the Ministry of Justice replied that this is not feasible.
Israeli police or soldiers entering a Palestinian neighbourhood during the day to make arrests would have major security risks. As ever, Israel is criticised whatever it does.
Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC, of Bindmans solicitors (Jude Lanchin’s employer), was also on hand last night to condemn Israel as usual. He spoke of “Israel committing outrageous and illegal acts, yet getting away with it” and said it was all part of Israel’s strategy “to maintain the occupation and prevent a Palestinian state being created”.
In summary, the self elected jury of nine lawyers who put the initial report together last year did so while shamefully accepting at face value anonymous evidence from organisations traditionally hostile to Israel while rejecting the legitimate concerns of Israel’s Ministry of Justice.
However, it was the presence of another parliamentarian last night, which really spoke volumes: Jenny “Israel won’t be here forever” Tonge.
Tonge was sat next to Jude Lanchin while Lanchin repeatedly referred to the help that Tonge was offering the nine lawyer committee, especially in trying to get questions asked in Parliament about Israel.
If there was ever evidence of the contempt of court in which this nine lawyer committee should now be held, what more does one need than this?