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(i) Between January 2001 and late 2010, 645 complaints were filed against Israeli Security Agency (ISA) interrogators for alleged ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian detainees. No criminal investigations were conducted.142 (ii) Between 2000 and 2010, a complaint lodged by a Palestinian against an Israeli soldier had a 96.5 percent chance of being dismissed without an indictment being filed.143 (iii) On 27 January 2011, an Israeli military court refused to imprison Lt. Col. Omri Burberg who was convicted of shooting a bound and blindfolded Palestinian detainee at close range in the foot with a rubber coated steel bullet. The court declined to impose a custodial sentence even though this was recommended by the prosecution.144 Since 2010, DCI-Palestine has submitted four complaints to the Israeli authorities on behalf of Palestinian children who allege they were mistreated whilst in detention. The
results of these complaints are presented in Table 11 below:
In a recent report published by B’Tselem, the organisation investigated two complaint files opened by the Israeli Department of Investigation of the Police (DIP) in cases where Palestinian children alleged wrongdoing by police interrogators. B’Tselem concluded that: “The investigative material in the two cases indicates that DIP carried out a superficial investigation and made no real attempt to get to the bottom of the matter.”145 | 65 Child arrested at Beit Ummar: © Husam Abu Allan | Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted T he following table presents a summary of findings following the analysis of 311 testimonies collected from children detained during the reporting period. The findings focus on 12 issues of concern that were selected because of the frequency with which they were raised by children in their testimonies. The table combines the findings of ill-treatment from each stage of the system considered in the preceding pages. It is important to note that all of the children were subjected to multiple types of ill-treatment, and the cumulative effect on the children must be kept in mind (see Annex 1).
T he body of evidence presented in this report reveals a systematic pattern of illtreatment, and in some cases torture, of children held in Israeli military detention.
The ill-treatment starts at 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 parents and children are generally not informed of the reasons for arrest or where the child is being taken, often in the middle of the night. The common experience of many children is that the journey to the interrogation centre is routinely accompanied by further avoidable suffering, either because of the way the child is restrained or positioned in the vehicle, or because of further physical or verbal abuse. As reported in many testimonies, 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 toilet facilities.
On arrival at the interrogation centres, children are questioned alone and rarely appear to be informed of their rights, particularly their right to silence. The testimonies reveal a method of interrogation that frequently mixes intimidation, threats and physical violence with the clear intention of obtaining a confession from the child. From the time of arrest to interrogation, three-quarters of the children report being subjected to some form of physical violence, with over half reporting being verbally abused or threatened. This treatment culminates in most children providing confessions which could not be used as evidence in the courts of most modern democracies, whilst in nearly one-third of cases, children are shown, or made to sign, documentation in a language they do not understand.
Once the interrogation stage of the system is concluded, 87 percent of children remain in pre-trial detention awaiting their prosecution before a military court. The primary evidence against most children in the military courts is their confession, or the confession of another child who has been subjected to similar treatment. For reasons explained in the Report, at least 90 percent of children end up pleading guilty and accepting a plea bargain, even if they insist they are innocent of the charges for which they stand accused, as this is the quickest way out of the system. Once sentenced, nearly twothirds of the children will be transferred to prisons inside Israel, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In practical terms this makes family visits difficult, and in some cases impossible, due to freedom of movement restrictions placed on Palestinians with West Bank ID cards.
In assessing the gravity of the ill-treatment reported by the children in their testimonies, it is important to consider the totality of the evidence from the moment of arrest to their appearance in the military court, as well as taking into account their age, physical and psychological development and relative position of inferiority. It is important to note that in all 311 cases, children report experiencing multiple forms of ill-treatment, as opposed to a single incident. This feature of the system is particularly relevant when assessing the gravity of the ill-treatment, as the cumulative effect must be taken into consideration, rather than viewing any individual act in isolation. Accordingly, 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. Evidence of the cumulative effect of the treatment is presented in Annex 1.
| Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted Reports of ill-treatment and torture within the military detention system are not new.
Numerous reports have been documented and published by Palestinian and Israeli lawyers, as well as human rights’ organisations working in the field. UN bodies, such as the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee against Torture and the Human Rights Committee, as well as numerous UN independent experts, have also frequently reported ill-treatment for many years (Annexes 4 and 5). One reason for the persistence and frequency of these reports can perhaps be attributed to the lack of any effective accountability mechanisms, where in the words of one 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.”146 Finally, the testimonies reveal that most children held in the military detention system are arrested from villages located close to friction points, namely settlements built in violation of international law, and roads used by the Israeli army or settlers. The final section of the Report makes a number of recommendations intended to reduce the level of ill-treatment, but no one should be under any illusion that the treatment documented in this report can be eliminated so long as the friction points remain and Palestinian children are treated as second-class individuals.
| 71 Hebron: © GhtH | Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted D CI-Palestine maintains the view that no child should be prosecuted in military courts which lack comprehensive fair trial and juvenile justice standards. However as a minimum safeguard, the following recommendations are intended to provide a series of simple and practical measures to assist in the protection of children held in the Israeli military detention system, and to curtail the practices that breach the absolute prohibition against torture and ill-treatment.
1. Except in extreme and unusual circumstances children should only be arrested during daylight hours.
2. In all cases the use of single plastic hand ties and blindfolds should be prohibited and the prohibition must be effectively enforced.
3. All children must have access to a lawyer of their choice prior to interrogation, and preferably, throughout the interrogation process.147
4. All children must be entitled to have a parent present at all times during their interrogation.148
5. In every case the interrogation of children must be audio-visually recorded, and a copy of the recording must be given to the child’s legal representative at the conclusion of the interrogation.149
6. In all cases evidence obtained as a result of torture or ill-treatment must be excluded by the military courts.150
7. In all cases where incriminating evidence is obtained during interrogation when the child was not appropriately informed of his/her right to silence, this evidence must be excluded by the military courts.
8. The practice of using solitary confinement and administrative detention orders on children in Israeli detention facilities must be stopped immediately, and the prohibition must be enshrined in law.
9. Effective accountability measures must be introduced to ensure all credible reports of torture and ill-treatment are properly investigated in accordance with international standards, perpetrators are brought promptly to justice, and appropriate sanctions are given.
10. In accordance with recommendations made in 2002 by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, John Dugard, an independent inquiry meeting with international standards should be established to investigate reports of torture and ill-treatment of children in the Israeli military detention system.
| Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted Qalandiya checkpoint : © Martin Hauschild | Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted At around 3:00 am, on the morning of 24 April 2010, two brothers are arrested by Israeli soldiers from their family home, near Bethlehem.
“I was sleeping,” recalls 14-year-old Nadeem, and “I woke up to the voice of my father trying to wake up jihad and me. He told us to get dressed. When I put on my clothes, I came out of the room and saw many Israeli soldiers in military uniforms. They were scary and I felt very scared.” Nadeem recalls bursting into tears when a soldier told his father that they would take Nadeem, and his 15-year-old brother, Jihad, for interrogation, but “it was pointless” as the two boys were led out of the house, tied and blindfolded.
The boys were put into a military vehicle and made to sit on the metal floor during the 30 minute drive to Etzion interrogation centre, located in the Israeli settlement of Gush Etzion. On arrival at the interrogation centre, the two boys were made to sit in a corridor for about three hours, still tied and blindfolded. Later that morning, the boys were untied and taken separately for interrogation. Jihad recalls being slapped twice across the face by a soldier who told him “I’ll fuck you if you don’t confess you son of a whore.” Jihad recalls becoming very scared and starting to cry, but was told to “shut up” by the soldier, but “I kept crying in a low voice.” The boys were accused of throwing stones at Israeli settler cars travelling on a road near their village. Both boys were interrogated in the absence of a lawyer and both boys confessed and signed papers written in Hebrew without knowing the contents. Both boys say they confessed because they were threatened with further violence. After interrogation, the boys were re-tied and blindfolded and made to sit in the corridor again for several hours. “While I was sitting there,” recalls Jihad, “I was expecting to be released because the interrogator didn’t tell me that I would be sent to prison. I kept sitting there with this hope to be released.” However, after several hours of waiting, both boys were taken to Ofer Prison and placed in a cell with 10 other detainees, including adults and children.
Ofer Prison is located next door to one of two military courts operated by the Israeli military authorities in the West Bank. According to court documents written in Hebrew, the boys were charged with throwing stones at Israeli vehicles near their village with the intention of injuring the passengers. Nadeem’s charge sheet alleges that “at an unknown time, on or about October 20, he threw 17 stones in the company of others.” On 29 April 2010, the boys’ lawyer entered into a plea bargain deal with the prosecution, in order to | Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted minimise their time in detention, under which both boys were sentenced to 31 days imprisonment, with a further four months imprisonment suspended for three years, and a fine of NIS 1,500. If the boys could not pay the fine, they would have to serve an additional one month in an Israeli prison.
On 1 July 2010, two 16-year-old boys are released without charge after spending 22 days in detention, including six days in solitary confinement at the Petah Tikva facility.
“I was in our living room with my children on Thursday evening, 1 July 2010, when my husband, Ibrahim, walked in and said Mohammad had been released from prison,” recalls Mohammad’s mother, Khadra. At first, Khadra did not know whether to believe her husband and told him not to joke about Mohammad, “but he smiled and told me he wasn’t joking. He told me he had received a phone call from Mohammad who had been dropped off at Azzun Checkpoint by soldiers. I couldn’t believe it and began to cry with joy. It was totally unexpected.” Three weeks earlier, Mohammad was woken up at 2:00 am by somebody shouting “army, army” in Hebrew. “At that point I realised that Israeli soldiers had come to our house, which is the nearest house in the village to the settlement of Yizhar, which is built on lands taken from our village,” recalls Mohammad. He and his family exited the house and following a brief discussion, Mohammad’s hands were tied with plastic ties and he was blindfolded. Mohammad was terrified and started to cry.
“Don’t be scared, be a man and stop crying,” Mohammad’s father called out, and Mohammad stopped crying.