Report: Israel mistreats 700 Palestinian minors in custody every year

Published February 2nd, 2015 - 10:13 GMT
Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian boy during a protest in the Aida refugee camp, near Bethlehem in the West Bank. (AFP/File)
Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian boy during a protest in the Aida refugee camp, near Bethlehem in the West Bank. (AFP/File)

A lawyer for the Department of Prisoner Affairs released a report on Saturday on the mistreatment of Palestinian minors by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) after she visited Palestinian minors in Israeli custody.

The report came after Child Rights International Network (CRIN) published in its first 2015 report that some 700 Palestinian children per year are arrested and face "ill-treatment" by the IOF.

The IOF have shut down a program meant to decrease the number of nighttime arrest raids targeting children in Palestinian homes after less than a year, with statistics suggesting that even when the program was active night raids barely decreased at all.

Military Court Watch, a Palestinian legal monitor focused on the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli detention, said in a statement on Thursday that the Israeli military had also failed to keep any statistics on the program it implemented of its own accord, meaning no independent evaluation could be conducted.

The report comes less than a year after Israeli military authorities unveiled the program to the international media with great fanfare, in the wake of a series of concerns raised in Europe and Australia over the effects of Israeli nighttime raids on Palestinian homes.

Hiba Massalha said in a statement that many of the minors spoke of being assaulted and beaten during their arrests and throughout interrogation.

Malek Hamdan, a 16-year-old Palestinian from Jerusalem, was beaten to the point of his bones being fractured while he was held at the Russian Compound detention center, the statement said.

Additionally, 17-year-old prisoner Mohammed Abdul Fattah Radwan, from Qalqiliya, told Massalha that during his detention, he was assaulted and dragged for a long distance while handcuffed and blindfolded.

Radwan was held at the al-Jalama detention center for 15 days. He was interrogated for several hours each day while tied to a small chair.

The teen said he was held in a small, filthy, cold room with the lights kept on all day and all night.

Another prisoner, 16-year-old Mohammed Yusuf Ikhleil from al-Khalil (also known as Hebron), was detained on November 1 while he was on his way home from school. He is currently being held in HaSharon prison.

Ikhleil said he was shot with a live bullet in the thigh, and while he was being detained, he lost a lot of blood as Israeli soldiers beat him.

He was moved to the Soroka Hospital in Beersheba for treatment, where he was kept in the ICU for three days and underwent a bone surgery for his thigh injury.

Ikhleil added that he was interrogated for an hour while at the hospital, and that he was shackled to the bed for 24 hours while guards watched him.

He was taken to the al-Ramla Hospital where he stayed for two months before being moved to HaSharon prison.

Meanwhile, 14-year-old prisoner Hussam Omar Mohammed Abu Khalifa from Bethlehem is suffering from depression and needs constant medical care.

Hussam is currently being held in HaSharon prison.

Moreover, 18-year-old Lina Khattab, a student at Bir Zeit University and dancer in the al-Funoun Palestinian cultural dance troupe, was arrested on December 18 and charged in a military court for “throwing stones” and “participating in an unauthorized demonstration.”

Khattab’s trial has been postponed more than six times. The military court had refused to release her on bail or put her in house arrest. The judge said at the time: “looking at her, I can see the characteristics of a leader.”

In 2013, the UN children's fund (UNICEF) reported that Israel was the only country in the world where children were "systematically tried" in military courts and gave evidence of practices it said were "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment."

The UNICEF report said in a 22-page report that over the past decade, Israeli forces have arrested, interrogated and prosecuted around 7,000 children between 12 and 17, mostly boys, noting the rate was equivalent to "an average of two children each day."

According to CRIN, some 700 Palestinian children per year are arrested and face "ill-treatment" on the hands of Israeli soldiers.

"During 2014, an average of 197 children were held in military detention every month, 13 per cent of whom are under the age of 16," the CRIN report read.

"Arrested children are commonly taken into custody by heavily armed soldiers, blindfolded with their wrists tied behind their backs before being transported to an interrogation centre," CRIN said, adding, "Children questioned about their experience frequently report verbal and physical abuse during the arrest."

According to research conducted by Defense for Children International in Palestine, which was cited by CRIN in their report, some 56 percent of children report having experienced "coercive" interrogation techniques during their time in Israeli custody.

Some 42 percent say they were forced to sign documents in Hebrew, despite the fact that most Palestinian children do not speak or understand the language.

Additionally, 22 percent of detained children say they underwent up to 24 hours of solitary confinement, in violation of international standards.

"This detention is a clear violation of children's rights under several international human rights treaties to which Israel is a party," the CRIN report said.

"The UN's Special Rapporteur on Torture has called for a complete ban on solitary confinement for juveniles, warning that it 'can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment when used as a punishment, during pre-trial detention, indefinitely or for prolonged periods, for persons with mental disabilities or juveniles.'"

The report said that while it is technically possible to file a complaint about the way a child is treated in Israeli detention, "complaints are almost universally dismissed," and there are "very few examples of soldiers being punished for ill-treatment."

The report highlighted a case in which a 14-year-old girl from Ramallah was arrested on December 31 and held for 22 days in Israel before being issued a sentence.

She was charged with throwing stones, blocking the road, and allegedly possessing a knife, "sentenced to two months in prison, and fined $1,528 by an Israeli military court."

The Israeli cabinet approved early November a new legislation that would allow the imposition of a prison sentence up to 20 years for those convicted of throwing stones or other objects at Israeli soldiers or their vehicles.

Her father believes she was coerced into confessing, saying: "She seemed to be very sick and scared."

"The plight of this one girl put a face on a system that routinely runs roughshod over children's rights," CRIN said, adding "But behind this story there is a broader issue."

The report recommended reforms while noting that countless other recommendations by human rights groups regarding the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli custody have gone unheeded by Israeli authorities.

Ultimately, CRIN concluded, children will never be treated well under an Israeli military justice system.

"Regardless of the precise formulation of military rule, it can never protect children in the same way as a developed civilian juvenile justice system which places the best interests of the child at the center of its work," the report read.

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