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
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor