Postscript – on Israeli jurisdiction: Palestinian challenges his arrest by Israel in West Bank

Perhaps because this did NOT involve “security” matters, an Israeli lawyer representing a Palestinian arrested in the West Bank and taken to Israel to be charged with a minor crime is challenging this as a violation of international law.

Haaretz is reporting here that Mohamed Beni Gama, a Palestinian resident of the West Bank, was arrested at his home in the village of Arkaba, near Nablus on Friday morning “accused the Israel Police of illegally abducting him beyond Israel’s borders, thus violating international law and overstepping the Israel Police’s authority.  The Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court instructed police to verify whether the suspect had been arrested ‘outside the country’ and whether it was legal to bring him into Israel for questioning over a two-year-old property offense”.

Haaretz added that “Judge Yael Klugman, formerly president of the military court in Tel Aviv, accepted the attorney’s arguments, ruling it must first be ascertained where Gama was arrested.  ‘If it transpires he was arrested outside Israel, and the police ask to extend his remand despite that … they must prepare to argue the case for their authority to arrest someone outside the country and bring him into Israel for investigation over a two-year-old breaking and entering offense’, she wrote”.

When I passed through the Hizma checkpoint yesterday from Jerusalem on my way to Ramallah, I noticed a new red sign on a stand, with white lettering only in Hebrew. When I returned to Jerusalem later in the evening, I saw the sign deployed, for the first time, just before the checkpoint, facing those coming to Jerusalem.

I asked the soldiers what it said, and a young woman with an olive green jumpsuit, jacket, hat — and a sleek black weapon — said that it simply indicated that “The area ahead is Israel, and in the other direction, behind you, it is Palestinian”.

As is customary Israeli military practice in the West Bank, the arrest was made “before dawn” on Friday.

He is being questioned about  “allegedly breaking into a Kfar Sava business two years ago”.  Kfar Sava [Kfar Saba] is a city in Israel not far from the West Bank, and not far from Nablus.

Haaretz noted that “The interrogation was conducted within the green line.   An arrest warrant for Gama was issued two months ago, after police found new evidence linking him to the crime. He was arrested in a joint police-Israel Defense Forces operation in the West Bank, they told the court.  Gama’s attorney Nachmi Finblat said the police and soldiers had abducted his client from his home in the Palestinian Authority, thus violating international law and the Israel Police’s jurisdiction”.

This Haaretz report added that: “Police have been arresting Palestinians in the West Bank and bringing them into Israel for trial for years. To do so, they need a court-issued arrest warrant approved by the attorney general and reasonable grounds for suspicion.  According to international law, a foreign national may be brought forcibly into another state only on suspicion of crimes against humanity, like Adolf Eichmann, or if he poses an immediate danger to the state’s security and people, like Dirar Abu Sisi, a Palestinian allegedly abducted from Ukraine whom Israel said was Hamas’ missile engineer”.

This, however, seems to be a particular Israeli interpretation of international law.

Though no state signatory to the Fourth Geneva Conventions has complained about it publicly until  now, any of the Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails could have grounds to appeal their being taken out of the West Bank and into Israel proper for interrogation, detention or trial.

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