Israeli use of 'human shields' is judged illegal

Ruling the practice a violation of international law, Chief Justice Aharon Barak declared: "You cannot exploit the civilian population for the army's military needs, and you cannot force them to collaborate with the army." He added: "Based on this principle, we rule it illegal to use civilians as human shields, and we also rule it illegal to use civilians to pass military warnings from the army to those the army wants to arrest."

Some Palestinian civilians have been wounded or killed in crossfire during what is also known as the "neighbour procedure", under which they are sent in first to the hide- outs of suspected militants.

After the Supreme Court granted interim injunctions in August 2002 to the Association of Civil Rights in Israel and the Adallah human rights organisation, the army substituted an "early warning" system which meant in theory that civilians should only be used when they were willing and their lives were not in danger.

But the Supreme Court also ruled against this version of the practice yesterday. Chief Justice Barak said: "It is uncommon that there is ever really free will ... Ninety-nine out of 100 times, it's not free will. It is very difficult to confirm will, and I am concerned that when an army unit comes at night, no one will refuse."

The petitioners' case has been underlined by recent testimony to an ex-soldiers' group called Breaking the Silence,which has strongly criticised military ethics. Describing the "neighbour procedure" during Operation Defensive Shield in Nablus in May 2002, a first sergeant in the Golani Brigade said it meant "that this is a person that goes through the holes we've blown up, and ... picks up for you stuff from the floor, to make sure nothing is booby-trapped. He goes inside rooms before you do, so that if there is a terrorist inside, he would be hurt [and not you]."

The sergeant said that in one case a civilian began to help "on his own initiative" but added: "I suddenly realised he was apparently really scared, and this is why he was so eager to help, not from a love for Israel or anything like it."

A staff sergeant in the Nahal Brigade described how in Hebron in late 2002 a platoon commander walked a Palestinian civilian up some stairs ahead of him "and told [him] to tell the terrorist that we were going to kill him ... if the terrorist did not come out and surrender himself ... [He] held the gun against his head and shouted. Where is he? Where is he?... the guy told him where the terrorist was hiding."

Among right-wing Knesset members who denounced the ruling yesterday, Effi Eitam said the justices "are binding the hands" of the army, which "stands against a terror without borders". The National Religious Party chairman and Knesset member Zevulun Orlev said that the ruling, along with one last month ordering the rerouting of the army's separation barrier in the Qalkilya area, "represents a dangerous trend - High Court justices ready to endanger the lives of soldiers and Israeli citizens in order to avoid hurting Palestinians".

The Knesset member Zahava Gal-On of the left-wing Meretz-Yahad party said the court had ruled that "an army in a democratic state cannot act like terror gangs".

Suggested Topics
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...


Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?