On 4 January 2004, the "trial of the five" came to an end. The 11 months
trial marathon finished with a harsh sentence: one year imprisonment for
five young conscientious objectors, on top of the 11-14 months they had
already spent in military arrest or "open detention" at a military base.
The "trial of the five" - Haggai Matar, Matan Kaminer, Noam Bahat, Adam
Maor, and Shimri Tzamaret - and the more or less parallel trial of
conscientious objector Jonathan Ben-Artzi, mark a new phase in Israel's
treatment of conscientious objectors.
This War Resisters' International report gives background information on
the two trials, and the six conscientious objectors concerned. It is
aimed to raise awareness for the new treatment of conscientious
objectors in Israel, and solidarity with those in prison.
One year ago, War Resisters' International published a comprehensive
report on "Conscientious objection to military service in Israel: an unrecognised human right".
This report gives a detailed explanation of the legal situation regarding
conscientious objection to military service in Israel, and is still
valid. However, although the legal framework did not change, the
court-martials have to be seen as a departure from an long-established
practice in dealing with conscientious objectors. This development began
in later 2002. WRI's report from February 2003 noted the beginning of
the increase of punishment for draft resistance:
"It can be seen that the average was below 90 days for draft resisters who
were called up in 2001, those who were called up in 2002 received sentences
of more than 100 days on average, with average sentences climbing to more than 140
days for those called up from August 2002 onwards (...). The increase of
sentences is the result of repeated imprisonment. Before 2002, draft
resisters were usually sentenced 4 or at maximum 5 times, until they had
spent at least 90 days in prison. (...) For those who were called up in
2002 the situation changed. Victor Sabranski, who was called up in May
2002, spent 126 days in prison. Those who were called up from August
2002 on spent even more days in prison, being sentenced five, six,
seven, or even more times, with no end in sight."
In February 2003, the first conscientious objectors were transfered to
court-martials. On 12 February 2003, Jonathan Ben-Artzi, after having
spent more than 200 days in prison, was taken to a meeting with a
Brigadier General at the General Staff Headquarters in Tel Aviv. There
he was offered an "easy service, without gun or uniform" if he would pay
the price and enlist into the army. On refusal, he was told that he now
would face a court martial, which is empowered to hand down a sentence
of up to three years for refusal to enlist.
Within a few days similar developments occured in several cases...
Dror Boimel: http://wri-irg.org/news/2004/israel0204-en.htm#sdfootnote4sym
Uri Ya'acobi: http://wri-irg.org/news/2004/israel0204-en.htm#sdfootnote5sym
both of these cases were later dropped.
Haggai Matar: http://wri-irg.org/news/2004/israel0204-en.htm#sdfootnote6sym
Matan Kaminer: http://wri-irg.org/news/2004/israel0204-en.htm#sdfootnote7sym
...and then Noam Bahat, Adam Maor, and Shimri Tzameret:
The cases of Haggai Matar, Matan Kaminer, Noam Bahat, Adam Maor, and Shimri
Tzameret were then put together to the "Trial of the Five", while the
trial of Jonathan Ben-Artzi went ahead separetely.
Both court-martials have to be seen as test cases, and it has to be
feared that they will determine the treatment/punishment of
conscientious objectors in Israel for the near future. This report, and
the documentation of these trials, is put together to raise awareness,
and to contribute to the recognition of the right to conscientious
objection in Israel.
Andreas Speck at WRI
CO Campaigning and Fundraising Worker
War Resisters' International
5 Caledonian Rd * London N1 9DX * Britain
tel +44-20-7278 4040 fax +44-20-7278 0444
email email@example.com http://wri-irg.org