Israeli Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that it is illegal for the Israeli army to use Palestinian civilians as “human shields”.

Chief Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court, Aharon Barak, issued his ruling in response to petitions filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Adalah, in its name and on behalf of , ACRI, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, B’Tselem, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, HaMoked, and other human rights organizations.   

Adalah filed the petition in May 2002 against the Commander of the Israeli Army in the West Bank; the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army; the Minister of Defense; and the Prime Minister.

The organization argued that the practices of the army are direct violation to the International Law.

The petitioners argued that the army’s use of Palestinian civilians as human shields and/or as hostages is inhumane treatment and violates the right to life, physical integrity, and dignity.

The petitioners also argued that this practice constitutes a “grave breach” of the Geneva Convention (IV) and thus, amounts to a war crime

“The army cannot utilize the civilians for the army’s military needs”, Justice Barak said, “It also can’t force them to collaborate”.

“Based on this principle, we ruled its illegal to use the civilians as human shields”, the ruling reads, “It is also illegal to use civilians to pass military warnings to the residents the army wants to arrest”. 

Israeli soldiers repeatedly used Palestinian civilians as human shields in their operations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; the civilians were forced to approach homes and hideouts of wanted residents, several residents were caught in crossfire between the resistance and the army, and were wounded or killed.

After the petitions were filed in 2002, the court issued a temporary injunction against using Palestinians as human shields.

The army, responding to the injunction, claimed that the procedure used is an “early warning” practice, claiming that soldiers used Palestinian civilians as shields after they “had explicitly agreed to collaborate”, and if the activity did not endanger their lives.

Justice Barak slammed that so called “early warning” procedure, quoting the Geneva Protocol which prohibits the occupying army from using civilians against their own will.

Also, Barak called on the military to stop its current procedure saying that the civilians, out of fear from the soldiers, will not refuse to cooperate with the army, and added that “It is uncommon that there is ever really free will; ninety-nine out of 100 times, it’s not free will”.