Attorney General Menachem Mazuz
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Vadim Norzich
Reproduction photo: Alex Kolomoisky

Mazuz: Military court ruling inadmissible in Israel

Attorney General tells Supreme Court West Bank military court rulings cannot be used as evidence in civil lawsuits, since military court does not operate according to Israeli law, and should be viewed as foreign court

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz submitted a brief on Wednesday to the Supreme Court in which he stated that military court rulings cannot be used as evidence in any civil proceeding.


Mazuz's stance, first published on Ynet, was filed following a query that arose from a lawsuit filed by the family of Vadim Norzich, a reserve soldier who was killed in a lynching in Ramallah in October 2000.


According to Mazuz, the military court does not operate according to Israeli law, and therefore it should be considered a foreign court that is inadmissible in Israel.


The attorney general stressed that there is no dispute as to the military judges' professionalism, credibility and decency, but that it should be noted that they are appointed by an IDF commander in the area and that their appointment and selection is the result of a process different than that which is customary in Israeli law.


"The conclusion that arises is that the military court system is a separate and independent system… Israeli law does not apply to it directly and does not give it authority. Therefore, the military court is actually a foreign court in this case," Mazuz wrote.


He said the military's court's independence from the Israeli judicial system falls in line with the rules of international law, which states that Israel's laws cannot be directly applied to the West Bank. He added his document is in no way intended to undermine the validity of military court rulings in the West Bank based on the applicable laws.


About two months after the 2000 lynch, Norzich's family filed a claim at the Jerusalem District Court in the amount of NIS 65 million (roughly $17 million) against the Palestinian Authority it held responsible for the murder.


After eight years of inquires into whether the Palestinian Authority can be sued, the evidentiary process  began, and attorney Nitsana Darshan Leitner, who represents the family, presented military court verdicts that convicted 16 Palestinians of their involvement in the lynching, and sentenced them to various terms, including life imprisonment.


Attorney Yossef Arnon, who represents the Palestinian Authority, objected to the submission of the verdicts, and argued that since the military courts are not authorized to rule in Israel, their verdicts cannot be used as evidence in a civil lawsuit.


Judge Moshe Drori ruled that the submission of the verdicts should be allowed, and that there is no problem with determining them admissible evidence. He said the laws of the military courts in the West Bank are identical to those of Israel's criminal courts.


The judge added that military court judges are top notch judges who are selected by a committee of legal experts.


Arnon did not back down and appealed to the Supreme Court, which asked for the attorney general to intervene and give his position in the matter. In his response, Mazuz said the question of the similarity between the legal system in Israel and in the military courts brought up by judge Drori is irrelevant, and that the district court should have examined whether or not the military court is authorized to hear a case in Israel.


With regards to the Norzich family's lawsuit specifically, Mazuz wrote: "It will likely make it easier on the family to run their lawsuit with the help of the military court's verdicts, but in the proceeding in question the court is presented with a general legal question which should be examined accordingly."


פרסום ראשון: 08.19.09, 14:30
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