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Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted:
Children held in military detention
“The test of a democracy is how
you treat people incarcerated,
people in jail, and especially
so with minors.”
Spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister,
The Guardian, 22 January 2012
A. Executive summary
C. Overview of the Israeli military detention system
Establishment of a military juvenile court
Recent amendments to the military law – Military Order 1676
Raising the age of majority
Notifying parents of arrest
Notifying a lawyer of arrest
Offences under military law and sentencing
D. Children in the Israeli military detention system
Time of arrest
Notification of reasons for arrest and location of detention
Methods and means of restraint
| Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted S ince 1967, Palestinians from the West Bank have been living under Israeli military law and prosecuted in military courts. The United Nations (UN) estimates that during the last 44 years, around 726,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been prosecuted and detained under these emergency laws. In the past 11 years alone, around 7,500 children, some as young as 12 years, are estimated to have been detained, interrogated, and imprisoned within this system. This averages out at between 500-700 children per year, or nearly two children, each and every day.
This Report is the culmination of four years’ work during which time sworn testimonies were collected from 311 children held in Israeli military detention. The Report focuses on the period of time between the child’s arrest and being brought before a military court for the first time. The testimonies reveal that the majority of children are detained in the middle of the night in what are typically described as terrifying raids conducted by the army. Most children have their hands painfully tied behind their backs and are blindfolded, before being taken away to an unknown location for interrogation. The arrest and transfer process is often accompanied by verbal abuse and humiliation, threats as well as physical violence. Hours later the children find themselves in an interrogation room, alone, sleep deprived, bruised and scared. Unlike Israeli children living in settlements in the West Bank, Palestinian children are not accompanied by a parent and are generally interrogated without the benefit of legal advice, or being informed of their right to silence.
The testimonies reveal that most children undergo a coercive interrogation, mixing verbal abuse, threats and physical violence, generally resulting in a confession. The most common offence children confess to is throwing stones. The Report also finds that in 29 percent of cases, the children are either shown, or made to sign, documentation written in Hebrew, a language they do not understand.
Within eight days of their arrest, the children are brought in chains to a military court where, in most cases, they will see a lawyer and their parents for the first time. Although many children maintain their innocence, in the end at least 90 percent will plead guilty, as this is the quickest way out of a system that denies children bail in 87 percent of cases.
Within days of their arrest, nearly two-thirds of the children are transferred to prisons inside Israel in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits such transfers. The practical consequences of this is that many children receive either limited, or no family visits, due to freedom of movement restrictions and the time it takes to issue a permit to visit the prisons.
In addition to an analysis of the 311 testimonies collected from children detained in the military detention system, the Report includes 25 detailed case studies of children, as well as interviews with a lawyer, a rehabilitation expert, a former Israeli soldier and an expert medical report into the mental health implications for the children. The Report also contains a complete list of all 311 testimonies with details of the ill-treatment and issues of concern encountered by each child, as well as a comprehensive list of relevant UN, governmental and NGO reports, and media articles.
The Report finds that when the totality of the evidence is considered, a pattern of systematic ill-treatment emerges, much of which amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as defined in the UN Convention against Torture, and in some cases, torture – both of which are absolutely prohibited. The Report also finds that there is a general absence of effective complaint mechanisms, which is best summed up in the | Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted
following extract taken from a report published by a well respected Israeli organisation:
“The chances of a criminal offence carried out by an IDF soldier against a Palestinian successfully navigating the obstacle course of the complaint procedure [...] are almost nil.” Although no child should be prosecuted in a military court which lacks comprehensive fair trial and juvenile justice standards, the Report concludes by making 10 recommendations intended to provide a series of simple and practical protective measures. These recommendations include a call for an end to night time arrests, children to have access to a lawyer prior to questioning, all interrogations to be audio-visually recorded, and every child to be accompanied by a parent.
The following table presents a summary of the findings following analysis of the 311 testimonies and highlights 12 issues of concern that were selected because of the frequency with which they were raised by the children.
S ince the establishment of Defence for Children International-Palestine Section (DCIPalestine) in 1991, the organisation has represented over 3,000 Palestinian children in Israeli military courts, and visited a similar number of children held in prisons. Over the past 20 years, the organisation has received reports on a weekly basis from these children alleging that they have been mistreated whilst in the custody of Israeli military and civilian authorities. If proven, many of these reports would violate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, for the purposes of the UN Convention against Torture.1 In some cases, the treatment would amount to torture.
Due to the serious nature of these allegations, and the absolute prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (torture and ill-treatment), DCI-Palestine, with the support of the European Union, has undertaken an extensive documentation project commencing on 1 January 2008.2 The Report presents the findings of this work so far, between 1 January 2008 and 31 January 2012 (reporting period). During the reporting period, in addition to providing free legal assistance and conducting prison visits, lawyers and fieldworkers for DCI-Palestine have collected sworn testimonies from children detained within the system, with a view to better assessing and verifying the reports of torture and ill-treatment, as well as highlighting other issues of concern within the system.
The Report presents the findings of the analysis of 311 testimonies collected during the reporting period. In addition to these testimonies, DCI-Palestine has collected a further 68 testimonies from children detained in occupied East Jerusalem. The findings of these testimonies are included in a separate report as Israel applies its civilian law in East Jerusalem, as opposed to military law which is applied to Palestinian children living in the West Bank.3
Child arrest, Beit Ummar: © Maan News | Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted
Methodology The Report is based on the testimonies of 311 children from the West Bank, who were detained by the Israeli army or police during the reporting period. A comprehensive list of all 311 testimonies collected during the reporting period, including the child’s age, date of arrest and the type of treatment experienced, is contained at the end of the Report in Annex 1.
The testimonies were collected by DCI-Palestine lawyers and fieldworkers in accordance with established UN standards.4 The lawyers and fieldworkers were trained to ask a series of non-leading questions specifically focussing on the period of time between the child’s arrest and being brought before a military court for the first time. The overwhelming majority of the testimonies were collected from children while they were in detention, and the events were still fresh in their memories. The age ranges of the children who
provided testimonies are presented in Table 2:
In the overwhelming majority of cases, the testimonies were provided by boys (97 percent), with nine testimonies being provided by girls (3 percent) – a split that slightly over represents the number of girls detained in the system at most given times (Annex 3).
In their testimonies, the children recount their experiences in chronological order, from the moment of their arrest, through their transfer to a detention facility and their subsequent interrogation and appearance before a military court. The time frame covered in the testimonies generally ranges from several days, up to several weeks, but occasionally longer.
The Report follows these children on their journey through the system and seeks to identify any commonly recurring patterns of ill-treatment, such as the excessive use of force and painful methods of restraint. The Report also seeks to identify other aspects of the system which either alone or cumulatively, may have an adverse physical or mental impact on children, such as conducting arrests in the middle of the night using heavily armed soldiers. This analysis forms the primary evidentiary basis for the Report. Where relevant, the Report also refers to reports by UN agencies and experts, governments and NGOs, media outlets and data obtained from the Israel Prison Service (IPS) (Annexes 4, 5 and 6).
| 13 Israeli military juvenile detention system - 2012 S ince the occupation of Palestinian territory in 1967, Palestinians have been charged with offences under Israeli military law and tried in military courts. It is estimated that 726,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been detained under these orders during the past 44 years.6 Israel, as an occupying power, claims the right under international humanitarian law to establish military courts in the territory it has occupied since 1967.7 However, applicable international human rights and humanitarian law nevertheless restricts the jurisdiction of such courts and guarantees certain fundamental fair trial rights.8 Furthermore, it is doubtful whether the use of military courts to try civilians can ever satisfy the requirements under international human rights law to a trial before an independent and impartial tribunal, particularly in the circumstances of a prolonged military occupation that is now of questionable legality.9 Generally speaking, the Israeli military courts prosecute Palestinians who live in the West Bank and hold West Bank identity cards. Palestinians with Jerusalem identity cards are generally prosecuted in the Israeli civilian criminal justice system, even though East Jerusalem is considered to be part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory under international law.10 Since Israel’s “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip in September 2005, Palestinians from Gaza detained by Israeli authorities are generally prosecuted in Israel under civilian security legislation, and not under military law. Palestinians living inside Israel, who hold Israeli citizenship or rights of residency, are also prosecuted in the civilian criminal justice system, as are Israeli children, including those living in settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.11 Palestinians from the West Bank, who are accused of offences against other Palestinians, are generally prosecuted in Palestinian courts.
Structural framework The Israeli military detention system consists of a network of military bases, interrogation and detention centres and police stations in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and in Israel.
Palestinians, predominantly from the West Bank, are initially taken to one of these facilities for questioning and temporary detention.12 Some of these facilities are inside settlements in the West Bank. Palestinians, including children, remain at these facilities while awaiting sentencing by the military courts, or are transferred to prisons, most of which are located inside Israel, where they wait to be sentenced, or to serve out their prison terms.13 It should be noted that the transfer of Palestinian detainees, including children, to temporary detention facilities and prisons inside Israel, violates Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits such transfers.14 There are currently two military courts used to prosecute Palestinians, including children, both of which are in the West Bank.15 Access to both military courts is strictly controlled.