by Adri Nieuwhof, EI
In February, the number of Palestinian children between 12 and 15 years who were detained by Israel rose from 31 to 39. Almost 60 percent of the 236 Palestinian child detainees of all ages have been unlawfully transferred to prisons inside Israel. Children were arrested and detained during the recent protests in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.
These facts have been made public by Defence for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI-PS). The organization’s 2013 case summaries make for chilling reading.
Shoved to the ground
For example, Israeli soldiers used excessive force during the arrest of 15-year-old Jaber. In the middle of the night, dozens of soldiers raided the boy’s home when they came searching for him. Jaber’s mother witnessed how her son was dragged from his bed to the front yard of the family home in Beit Ur al-Tahta (near the West Bank city of Ramallah), DCI-PS reported on 28 March.
The soldiers shoved the boy to the ground, and kicked and punched him several times. Jaber trembled and cried when soldiers surrounded him with three dogs. The soldiers searched the home for several hours. All the time, Jaber was forced to stay outside in the cold without adequate clothing. After the soldiers had tied his hands behind his back and blindfolded him, he was taken away in a military jeep.
DCI-PS found that Jaber has been held at the Moskobiyyeh jail in West Jerusalem (also known as the Russian Compound). It is not the first time that Jaber was arrested. Last year, he already spent nine months in prison for throwing stones.
On 5 March, nine-year-old Mo’men ran away from a demonstration in Hebron. Near his home, he ran into a group of Israeli soldiers. They grabbed him in the neck and by his left shoulder and took him to a room near Shuhada Street. “I was very scared of them especially when they grabbed me by my neck,” said Mo’men. “I was really scared and worried about what would happen to me.”
In the room, he was held with several teens. He was blindfolded and his hands were tied in front of him with two plastic cords. A military jeep took him to the police station in the settlement of Kiryat Arba, where he was forced to sit outside until 9:30 in the evening — all the time his hands were tied and he was blindfolded. He was brought back to Shuhada Street in a military jeep where he was turned over to the Palestinian Authority police. Soon after that, he was reunited with his father.
According to Israeli law, children under the age of twelve are not criminally liable and may not be arrested, interrogated as a suspect or brought to trial.
Punched and kicked
Seventeen-year-olds Ahmad and Moath were arrested by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration near Huwwara checkpoint (south of the West Bank city of Nablus) on 3 March. In their testimonies, they said that they were chased by four Israeli soldiers who punched and kicked and hit them with the stocks of their rifles. Their hands were tied behind their backs with a plastic cord and they were blindfolded. They were physically assaulted in the back of a military jeep on the way to Huwwara interrogation and detention center. While blindfolded they heard soldiers using mobile phones to take photos of them, both alone and with soldiers next to them.
Soldiers punched and kicked them before they were again put in a military jeep, still blindfolded and with their hands tied. They were taken to Ariel police station where they were interrogated without the presence of an attorney or family member. They were not informed of their rights. They both provided confessions and signed statements in Arabic without being allowed to read the statement or understand the contents. The following day, they were unlawfully transferred to Megiddo prison inside Israel.
Forced to sign statements
On 25 February, 14-year-old Hassan was arrested by Israeli soldiers during clashes between youths and soldiers near Huwwara checkpoint. Soldiers chased Hassan through a field and caught him because he had breathing problems from inhaling teargas. A soldier knocked him down from behind and hit him several times with a wooden stick on the legs.
Hassan testified that he was punched in the face and kicked in the stomach, then grabbed by the neck. His hands were tied tightly behind his back with a plastic cord, causing him pain. He was blindfolded and transferred to Ariel police station. In the interrogation room at the police station, he complained that his hands hurt; they were swollen and looked blue. The interrogator unbound his hands. Hassan denied he had thrown stones at the soldiers.
Hassan gave in after he was intimidated by the interrogator who promised to send him home if he confessed. “But if you don’t, I’ll lock you away for six months and forbid you to enter Israel.” Hassan had to sign a statement in Hebrew. On 28 February, he was released on a bail of 3,000 shekels (almost $650). However, the charges can be filed against him at any time within six months from his arrest.
On 25 February, 15-year-old Baha was arrested by three soldiers while he was on his way home from school. At Ariel police station, an interrogator forced Baha to sign papers written in Hebrew. Baha told DCI-PS that he had asked the interrogator “to explain what was written but he refused and shouted and made me sign the papers.” Baha testified that he did not confess, although the interrogator had pressured him to admit he had thrown stones.
Beaten for complaining
Meanwhile, DCI-PS has submitted two complaints about the abusive behavior of interrogators at Ariel police station in February. Sixteen-year-old Majd testified that one interrogator hit his face with a stick during his second interrogation. Another interrogator violently shook him until he was dizzy. Hurt, scared and tired, Majd confessed to throwing stones after enduring two hours of ill-treatment. The other complaint concerned verbal abuse of a sexual nature against a 16-year-old boy.
Both teens were arrested in an early morning raid on 9 February. The soldiers tied their hands tightly behind their backs and blindfolded them. Majd said the soldiers transferred them to different detention facilities — including Ariel police station — a number of times. Soldiers beat them when they complained that the plastic ties were too tight.
According to DCI-PS, children who are arrested arrive at Israeli interrogation centers blindfolded with their hands tied and deprived of sleep. They are denied the right to be accompanied by their parents and they have no access to a lawyer. They are seldom informed of their rights. The interrogations are in general mentally and physically coercive, often combining elements of intimidation, threats and physical violence. The interrogation techniques used are clearly aimed at obtaining a confession.
Instead of this abuse and ill-treatment, children should be entitled to have a parent present at all times during interrogation, have access to a lawyer of their choice prior to interrogation, and preferably throughout the interrogation process. Moreover, all interrogations of children should be recorded with audio-visual equipment.
The latest testimonies leave no doubt that Israel routinely violates the rights of the vulnerable.