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The maximum penalty stipulated for such an act or omission is life imprisonment.57 E ach year approximately 500-700 Palestinian children (12-17 years) from the West Bank are prosecuted in military courts after being arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli army, police and security agents.58 It is estimated that since 2000 alone, around 7,500 Palestinian children have been detained and prosecuted in the system. The following figures are compiled by DCI-Palestine every month from information obtained from the IPS and from Israeli army temporary detention facilities. The figures are not cumulative, but a snapshot of the number of children in detention at the end of each month.
During the reporting period the average number of Palestinian children (12-17 years) detained by Israeli authorities at any given time was 265, of which on average, 34 (13 percent) were young children aged between 12 and 15 years.
The following sections of the Report are based on an analysis of 311 testimonies, and describe the passage of a child through the system, from the moment of arrest, transfer and interrogation, concluding with the prosecution of the child in a military court and imprisonment. These sections are not intended as an exhaustive list of all issues of concern, but instead focus on issues that are repeatedly raised by the children in their testimonies.
Child arrest: © Husam Abu Allan | Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted
Arrest Most children report being arrested from their family homes in the middle of the night by heavily armed soldiers. Some children are arrested in the streets near where they live, while others are arrested in close proximity to settlements or roads used by the Israeli army and settlers. A smaller proportion of children report being arrested at Israeli army checkpoints. These are the friction points where most arrests occur.
There are no specific guarantees or safeguards under international law that specifically regulate the times at which a child can be arrested. Israeli civilian law, on the other hand, does restrict the times at which children can be interrogated, which in turn, influences the times at which Israeli children are arrested.59 However, no such protection is included in the Israeli military orders applied to Palestinian children living in the West Bank.
In a small minority of cases, there is evidence that the arresting soldiers are in possession of documentation that the families assume are arrest warrants, but the paperwork is generally written in Hebrew. Following the mistaken issuing of documentation written in Hebrew on a family of a seven-year-old boy in June 2010, which required the child to attend an interrogation conducted by the Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security agency), the military authorities gave an undertaking in the media that they would ensure that all future documentation would be written in both Arabic and Hebrew (Case study 6).62 In spite of this undertaking, documentation written only in Hebrew continues to be issued.
to Israeli military law, the police are supposed to notify parents that a child has been detained once the child arrives at a police station. However, this notification requirement may be delayed for a number of reasons, including “security.” Further, these amendments impose no obligations whatsoever on the Israeli army, which is the authority that generally conducts the arrest and which often has custody of the child for many hours, and sometimes days, before being transferred to a police station.65 Methods and means of restraint In April 2010, new procedures for tying detainees were introduced after numerous complaints and the initiation of legal action by the Israeli organisation, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI). The new procedures for using restraints were
stated as follows:
• Hands should be tied from the front, unless security considerations require tying from behind;
• Three plastic ties should be used, one around each wrist, and one connecting the two;
• There should be a finger space between the ties and the wrist;
• The restraints should avoid causing suffering as much as possible; and • The officer in charge is responsible for ensuring compliance with these procedures.
The UN Committee against Torture has concluded that in circumstances where law enforcement or military personnel use excessive force, this may amount to torture and/or ill-treatment.66 In order to make this determination, the particular facts and circumstances of each individual case must be considered, including taking into account certain subjective factors, such as the victim’s age and position of inferiority.67 Summary of findings: Arrest The testimonies reveal that the ill-treatment starts from the moment of arrest when many children report experiencing terrifying night-time raids on the family home, before being tied, often painfully so, and blindfolded. The destabilising effect of these night-time arrests is compounded by the fact that few children or parents are informed where the child is being taken.
On 6 July 2011, a 15-year-old boy from ‘Iraq Burin village, near Nablus, is arrested by Israeli soldiers from the family home at 2:00 am.
At around 2:00 am, on 6 July, 15-year-old Ahmad was up late socialising with family members who had just arrived from Jordan. “We were all sitting on the balcony […] when we heard people climbing up the stairs,” recalls Ahmad. “Suddenly, many soldiers stormed the house. We were surprised to see them. They started shouting at us and ordering us into the living room.” Some soldiers started searching the house causing a big mess.
Ahmad’s two-year-old nephew started crying which “annoyed the soldiers who started shouting and asking his mother to shut him up.” Approximately one hour after the soldiers arrived Ahmad was informed that he was “wanted for interrogation”. “One of the soldiers immediately tied my hands from the front with three sets of plastic cords. One cord for each hand and one cord connecting the two.
The ties were very tight and caused me much pain. Then another soldier grabbed me by the arm and took me out of the house.” Ahmad’s brother asked the soldiers where he was being taken and was attacked by a soldier. “He started hitting him hard with the barrel of his rifle in front of the family, including the children who became horrified and started crying,” recalls Ahmad. On exiting the house Ahmad was also blindfolded.
Ahmad reports being led about 50 metres to some waiting vehicles which then transported him to Huwwara interrogation centre, on the outskirts of Nablus. On arrival at the centre Ahmad was pulled out of the vehicle and made to stand beside it. “They were chanting, laughing and shouting in my ears,” recalls Ahmad. “They were making fun of me. One of them placed his mobile phone beside my ear and played a police siren so loud. Then one of them grabbed me by the arm and placed my head against the car engine, as another one kept stepping on the accelerator. They did this several times. My whole body started shaking.” Ahmad reports that he was then taken inside the gates of the centre but left outside from about 5:00 am until 3:00 pm the following day. He was not brought any food. Whilst waiting outside, Ahmad reports being verbally abused and told: “We want you to die out here.” Whenever Ahmad tried to sleep a soldier would start shouting and kicking him to keep him awake.
freaked me out. I was so scared my body started shaking because I thought he was going to bite me. They saw me shaking and started laughing and making fun of me. Then they put another piece of bread on my trousers near my genitals, so I tried to move away but he started barking. I was terrified.” Later that day Ahmad was taken to the police station in Ari’el settlement and interrogated.
“The interrogator removed my blindfold but kept me tied,” recalls Ahmad. “The interrogator accused me of throwing stones, but I denied it.” The following day Ahmad was placed inside another vehicle and transferred to Megiddo prison, inside Israel, in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits such transfers.
“The air conditioner was turned on and it was freezing inside. I asked them to turn it off, but they refused even though my body started shivering.” The vehicle made a number of stops before arriving at Megiddo at around 11:00 pm. Ahmad was not provided with any food during the eight hour journey, and was strip searched on arrival at the prison.
Beit Ummar: © Maan News | Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted
Transfer Once a child has been identified, tied and blindfolded, he will usually be led to a waiting military vehicle for transfer to an interrogation facility. Some children report being prevented from saying goodbye to their parents and prevented from putting on warm clothes for the journey.
being taken to what they describe as a “clinic” [Haris village] – “I was transferred and being asked a series of questions about their to a clinic where a military doctor health by a person they assume to be a military removed my blindfold, but kept my doctor. In very few cases is the child physically hands tied. The doctor just asked me examined. During this medical questioning, the a few questions about my health and child’s blindfold is usually removed, but his hands filled out a questionnaire. Then they often remain tied. In some cases, the children took me back to the truck and kept me inside until around 3:00 p.m.” report that they informed the doctor that they have been ill-treated, but their complaints are Wadda’ B. (16) – Arrested: 21 Nov 2011 ignored.68 The children are usually asked a series of questions whilst the doctor fills in a form. The whole process generally takes less than 10 minutes following which the child’s blindfold is replaced before he is taken outside again.
In some cases children report being left outside in the cold, rain or burning sun for extended periods of time, usually at one of the intermediate stops on the way to an interrogation centre. Some children also report being denied food, water or the use of a toilet for extended periods of time.
In 33 percent of cases, children report being strip-searched at some point during their progression through the system, and many of these children describe experiencing feelings of embarrassment and shame as a result.
Summary of findings: Transfer The testimonies reveal that the common experience of many children is that the journey to the interrogation centre is routinely accompanied by further ill-treatment, either because of the way the child is restrained and positioned in the vehicle, or because of further physical or verbal abuse. The transfer process can take many hours and often includes intermediate stops at settlements or military bases where further ill-treatment is reported, including in some cases, prolonged exposure to the elements, and a lack of water or access to toilets.
| Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted On 16 December 2011, a 15-year-old boy from Azzun village is detained by Israeli soldiers whilst on his way to collect firewood.
“On Friday, 16 December 2011, at around 2:00 pm, I headed west to our land to collect some wood for heating and baking,” recalls 15-year-old Thaer. “My friends were already there as they had gone with the donkey cart about an hour before. I was walking on a dirt road at around 2:30 pm, and I saw around six Israeli soldiers walking towards me. I was surprised to see them. I was very scared,” says Thaer. “They were about 150 metres away from me. ‘Boa, boa,’ one of them shouted at me, but I did not respond. I turned around and ran back to the village, and a small military jeep chased me.” The military jeep soon caught up with Thaer and he stopped and was surrounded by soldiers. “They signaled for me to raise my hands. They kept ordering me to do things in Hebrew, but I did not understand […] I saw one of them cocking his rifle and I became very scared because I thought they would shoot me,” says Thaer. A short time later Thaer was taken to the jeep and made to sit on the metal floor. “Two of the soldiers then got inside and stepped on my body as I was lying on the floor, and that hurt me a lot. The jeep started moving and they started kicking me and hitting me in the face and arms with their hands and rifles, as they were laughing and speaking to each other in Hebrew.” The jeep stopped at a gate near Thaer’s village and he was taken out and searched. He was then tied with a single plastic tie with his hands behind his back and blindfolded.
| 33 A short time later somebody approached Thaer. “‘I’m the officer. Talk to me,’ he said in fluent Arabic. ‘Tell me you threw stones and I promise I’ll let you go home,’ he said. ‘But I didn’t,’ I said, and he then asked me about certain older boys from the village. He ordered me to give him a list of my friends, but I told him I didn’t have any,” says Thaer. “‘If you don’t talk, I’ll take you to Tel Aviv and who knows where you’re going to end up after that. We’ll detain you and beat you,’ he said. ‘What were you doing if you were not throwing stones?’ he asked. ‘I was on my way to our land,’ I said. ‘Then why didn’t you respond to the soldiers when they called you?’ he asked. ‘Because I was scared of them,’ I said. At that point he started slapping me across the face and hitting me with his rifle in my stomach, and that really hurt,” says Thaer. “I was very scared, especially when the officer said they would shoot me if I did not talk and would take me to a place where no one would find me.” Although terrified, Thaer refused to confess to throwing stones because he says he did not throw any stones. Thaer was then put back in the military jeep and made to sit on the floor. He reports that he was beaten again inside the vehicle. Thaer does not know where he was taken but recalls being pulled out of the jeep and taken inside a room, still tied and blindfolded. Once inside the room, the ties and blindfold were removed. “Then they tied my hands behind my back to a chair and my feet in front. Then they put the blindfold back on and started beating me.” Thaer was kept inside this room for around five to six hours. He was not given anything to eat or drink, and was not permitted to use the toilet.