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Later that evening Thaer was again put into a vehicle which travelled for about half-anhour. He was then handed over to Palestinian security and was then released into the custody of his father. Thaer arrived home with his father at 10:30 pm.
This oversight can be provided by having the child’s lawyer and/or family member present during questioning, as well as having the proceedings audio-visually recorded.
The practice of audio-visually recording, which is used in a number of jurisdictions, including the Israeli civilian legal system in certain circumstances, provides some measure of protection to the detainee against torture and ill-treatment, as well as protecting the interrogator against false allegations of wrongdoing.72 Under the same amendments to the military orders, parents are now supposed to be notified of their child’s detention “Upon the arrival [...] to a police station.” However, this notification requirement can be delayed for up to eight hours if the police interrogator believes that notifying the parents would disrupt the investigation, or if the offence relates to “security.”77 Significantly, there is still no provision in the military orders that permit a parent to be present during interrogation, a right which Israeli children are entitled to in most cases.78 Restraints should only be used for as long as is strictly necessary, and it is difficult to ascertain from the testimonies any legitimate reason why so many children remain tied during interrogation whilst inside a secure military or police facility. In 37 percent of cases, children also report experiencing some form of physical violence during the interrogation. The violence most commonly reported includes pushing, slapping and kicking. In a smaller number of cases the violence is significantly more serious, including punching, slamming the child’s head against a wall and in three cases during the reporting period, children say they were given electric shocks from a handheld device by a police interrogator in Ari’el settlement (case study 7).79 • Threat of physical violence;
• Threat of long-term imprisonment;
• Unspecified threats, such as: “It’s better that you confess, or I’ll make you.” • Threat of sexual assault;
• Threats against family members;
• Threat of electric shocks;
• Threat of being held in solitary confinement; and • Death threats.
In addition to being threatened, many children also report being shouted at and verbally abused (31 percent) during interrogation. These psychological methods of interrogation, such as making threats and constant shouting and verbal abuse, can have a profound effect on a child under interrogation, potentially leading to the provision of false confessions.80 Summary of findings: Interrogation The testimonies reveal that the common experience of many children is that they are brought to an interrogation centre tied and blindfolded, sleep deprived and in a state of fear. Unlike their Israeli counterparts, Palestinian children have no right to be accompanied by their parents during interrogation, and in practice, do not get to meet with a lawyer until long after their interrogation is over. Although children in the military detention system are supposed to have the right to silence, few are ever informed of this right in a manner in which they can understand. Many children remain painfully tied for the duration of their interrogation, which is generally mentally and physically coercive, resulting in the provision of confessions, some of which are written in Hebrew, and many of which are of dubious veracity.
On 24 October 2011, a 17-year-old boy from Haris village is arrested by Israeli soldiers at 2:00 am and taken to Al Jalame interrogation centre, inside Israel, and held in solitary confinement for 24 days.
“At around 2:00 am, I was sleeping when I woke up to banging on the door: ‘Open up, it’s the IDF.’ I opened the door and soldiers pointed their rifles at me, ordering me to step aside and they stormed the house,” recalls 17-yearold Rami. The soldiers ordered the family to gather in one room while they searched the house.
Around half-an-hour later an intelligence officer arrived and asked to see the family’s ID cards. When the officer looked at Rami’s ID card he simply said “we’re taking you with us.” Rami’s hands were then tied behind his back with three sets of plastic ties and he was blindfolded. Rami was then led out of the house to a military vehicle which was parked approximately 600 metres away. “Two of the soldiers grabbed me and pushed me hard inside one of the jeeps and I fell on the metal floor,” recalls Rami. “The soldiers kept me lying on my back on the metal floor of the jeep, with my hands tied behind my back and my eyes blindfolded for about two hours. I was kept tied and blindfolded for at least 18 hours, during which time I was never provided with any food or water, and they never allowed me to use the bathroom,” says Rami. Whilst on the floor Rami says that soldiers pushed him about with their boots.
“Whenever I felt pain they would laugh loudly and insult me.” The jeep travelled for around two hours and then stopped. Rami was pulled out and asked some questions about his health. His hand ties and blindfold were briefly removed so that he could sign a medical form. He was then re-tied and blindfolded and taken back to the jeep and put on the metal floor. Rami reports that the jeep then travelled to several more locations. At one location he was taken out and made to sit on the ground for about one-and-a-half hours. He says that it was cold and he was shivering. At around 5:00 pm, the jeep arrived at Huwwara interrogation centre, near Nablus, in the West Bank. Rami reports being made to sit on the ground for another hour, still tied and blindfolded. Later on that evening, Rami was transferred to Al Jalame interrogation centre, inside Israel. The removal of Rami out of the occupied West Bank to an interrogation centre inside Israel, violates Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits such transfers.
On arrival at Al Jalame, Rami was strip searched and taken for interrogation. “There was a low metal chair tied to the floor in the middle of the room,” recalls Rami. “A jailer forced me to sit on the chair and tied my hands to it. After that an interrogator came into the room and introduced himself as Assaf. He said he would interrogate me and hoped that | Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted I would cooperate with him. ‘I’m very hungry because I haven’t had any food,’ I said. The interrogator brought me a piece of bread and a small piece of cheese and a glass of water.
He untied me so I could eat. ‘I want you to tell me what you did,’ Assaf said before I started eating. ‘I didn’t do anything,’ I said. ‘Liar,’ he shouted. ‘Put down the bread,’ he shouted and took it away. He did not give me the glass of water. He even re-tied my hands to the back of the chair,” says Rami. The interrogation lasted about an hour during which time Assaf kept shouting and threatening to hit Rami, “but I did not tell him anything.” “About an hour later, I was detained in Cell No. 36. It is a very small cell, which had a matress on the floor and toilet with a horrible smell, as well as two concrete chairs. The lights in the ceiling were dim yellow and on 24 hours, and they hurt my eyes. The walls were gray and had a rough surface. The cell did not have windows, just two gaps for letting air in and out. The food was served though a flap in the door.” Rami reports that he was held in solitary confinement in Cell No. 36, and a similar cell (Cell No. 1) for a total of 24 days.
“During my detention in Al Jalame I knocked on the door of my cell and asked for more bread because the bread they gave me was not enough. An old jailer immediately opened the door and started shouting. He approached me and put his arm around my neck and started choking me, saying: ‘I’ve worked here for a long time and no one has ever knocked on the door. If you ever do that again, I’ll wring your neck.’ The following day, the same jailer brought me a bucket of water and ordered me to clean up the cell.
I did what he asked. When I finished cleaning, I put the empty bucket near the door. He opened the door and kicked it away. He shouted at me and ordered me to bring it back to him. He wanted to humiliate me. I refused to do it, so he came in and stepped on my right foot with his boot – I was barefooted. I felt a lot of pain and my foot was swollen for three days […] I wrote a complaint but I don’t know what happened to it.” “During my detention in Al Jalame, another interrogator named Amos also interrogated me. He and Assaf interrogated me everyday for about nine hours, except on Fridays and Saturdays. They accused me of throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. I denied it. They said I was a liar and said that a man from my village had said in a statement that I had thrown stones and Molotov cocktails with him […] Eventually a list of charges was made against me that included throwing stones. I had to confess to throwing stones because of the painful interrogation and the harsh conditions of my detention.” Military juvenile court proceedings Following their interrogation, children are brought before a military court within eight days of their arrest, although this time period will be reduced to four days by an amendment to the military law which comes into effect on 1 August 2012.86 It is inside the military court room where children generally see their lawyer and parents for the first time following their arrest. A child will generally appear in the military court on multiple occasions before the conclusion of his or her case. On each occasion, the child will be brought from prison with his hands cuffed and chains around his ankles. In some cases the journey to and from the prison, with waiting time at court, can take an entire day leaving the child physically and emotionally exhausted.
A critical feature of the system is that in the overwhelming majority of cases (87 percent), children will not be released on bail but remanded in custody until the conclusion of the legal process.87 In practical terms, although the evidence against many children is weak, consisting primarily of the child’s own confession and sometimes the confession of another child, the overwhelming majority will plead guilty (90 percent) in return for a lighter sentence, rather than remain in prolonged pre-trial detention for a period that will frequently exceed the sentence that would have been imposed had a plea of guilty been accepted – in short, pleading guilty is the quickest way out of the system whether the offence was committed or not.88 The denial of bail for children in the military courts removes any incentive to challenge the system. In the rare cases where lawyers do challenge the system, the results are rarely favourable.89 This point is perhaps best made by reference to the military courts’ own records which indicate that in 2010, the courts achieved a conviction rate of 99.74 percent.90 DCI-Palestine has been providing legal aid services to Palestinian children detained in the Israeli military detention system since 1991. During the past 20 years, DCI lawyers have represented over 3,000 children.
Question:- “How long have you been representing children in the military courts?” Iyad:- “I started with DCI in 2005, and I have been representing children since 2008.” Question:- “What do you do when you hear a child has been arrested?” Iyad:- “As soon as the parents or other parties inform me that a child has been arrested and detained, I contact the detention centres and the police stations to find the child, and to get initial information about the arrest, place of detention and the date of the trial. Once these basic facts are established, I try to coordinate a visit to the child as soon as possible to obtain details of the arrest and the interrogation.”
Question:- “As his lawyer is it easy to get access to the child?”
Iyad:- “No. In reality due to coordination difficulties with the Israeli authorities, the first time I see most of the children is when the child appears in the military court after they’ve been interrogated. Under Israeli military law a child can be legally denied access to his lawyer for up to 90 days.”
Question:- “In the court, do you try to get the child released on bail?”
Iyad:- “Yes, the first thing I do is ask the judge to release the child. In some cases I suggest various alternatives to detention, such as bail, a third party guarantee, or even house arrest until the end of the legal proceedings.” Question:- “What usually happens, does the judge release the child?” Iyad:- “In most cases the request is denied. The judge claims that there is no appropriate alternative to detention and that the release of these children endangers the community.
They see the child as guilty until proven innocent, not vice versa.” Iyad:- “Not common. In most cases children are either found guilty, or plead guilty.” Question- “So, what happens if the child pleads innocent?” Iyad:- “If the child decides to plead innocent, this will prolong the proceedings and he will spend a much longer time in detention. It could be twice as long as it would have been if the case ended in a plea bargain. Our experience in the courts shows that in the end, he will almost certainly receive a guilty verdict, with a stiffer sentence than if he had pleaded guilty to begin with. I explain this to the child and the family, and in most cases the child chooses not to plead innocent and concludes a deal with the prosecutor to end the case and reach a verdict.” Question:- “So, you have to advise children to plead guilty in order to be released sooner.
How does that make you feel when your work is reduced to plea bargaining?” Iyad:- “I reiterate, the cases are concluded this way due to one key reason: the child and the family are afraid of prolonging the proceedings, keeping the child in prison for a much longer time than he would have been were he to plead guilty and reach a plea bargain. Of course I feel frustrated and at times overwhelmed by a sense of injustice in this system which does not take the best interests of the child into account.”
Question:- “What motivates you to keep going?”