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
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss