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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas