JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli military courts routinely order Palestinian defendants held until a verdict is reached, turning legal proceedings into a "hollow formality," an Israeli rights group said Monday.
Remand to custody is "the rule rather than the exception," the group B'Tselem said in a report. It said most defendants enter plea bargains because waiting for trial means more time behind bars.
B'Tselem said it based its findings on partial figures because full statistics are not made public. The Israeli military said the report used "selected examples in a biased manner which distorts the reality of the situation."
Thousands of Palestinians appear before military courts every year on charges ranging from stone-throwing to membership in outlawed groups, violence and weapons offenses.
B'Tselem said military court judges ostensibly rely on conditions set in Israeli law for approving remand, such as initial evidence of guilt and the lack of alternatives to detention. However, the group alleged that the judges interpret these conditions in a way that renders them meaningless.
For example, judges accept a single confession as initial evidence of guilt and ignore complaints of ill-treatment during interrogation, the report said.
The military said the courts act "in accordance with the principles of the detention laws and high court rulings of Israel," and order defendants released when there are no grounds for detention.
Israeli settlers in the West Bank appear before regular courts.