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Imprisoning Palestinian Children - Imprisoning Palestinian Children

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Imprisoning Palestinian Children
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Relevant International Law

Torture, abuse, degrading and inhumane treatment are unequivocally prohibited at all times, under all circumstances, with no allowed exceptions.

Article 2(2) of the UN Convention Against Torture states:

"No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

Its Article 1 defines it as follows:

"any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain and suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."

Other relevant laws include Fourth Geneva, Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, calling torture a crime against humanity in Article 7 and a war crime in Article 8.

These laws also prohibit other forms of abuse, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. In addition, all nations are obligated to prevent torture and other forms of abuse, and to prosecute offenders under its jurisdiction.

Fourth Geneva also mandates they search for and prosecute them under the universal jurisdiction (UJ) principle, relating to crimes of war, against humanity,  genocide, or slavery. UJ is to ensure there's no place to hide.

Comments from Children During Arrests and Detention

  • "I went from having a normal life at home to handcuffs, deprivation of sleep, shouting, threats, rounds of interrogation and serious accusations. In these circumstances, life becomes dark, filled with fear and pessimism - tough days that words cannot describe."
  • "A soldier pointed his rifle at me. The rifle barrel was a few centimeters away from my face. I was so terrified that I started to shiver. He made fun of me and said: 'shivering? Tell me where the pistol is before I shoot you.' "
  • After arrest, "they stripped us out of our trousers and T-shirts. They then started to throw stones at our backs while laughing and making fun of us."
  • "While we were walking to the gate, the soldiers hit us with their rifles in our backs and laughed."
  • "As soon as the jeep started to move, (a) soldier who had pushed me, kicked me on my broken hand and beat me on my shoulders with his rifle."
  • Inside (a) clinic, they beat me on the back and neck with their hands. One of the soldiers took a rope that was on the table and placed it around my neck and pressed tightly to suffocate me."
  • A soldier "hit me in the face with the barrel of his rifle and that led to my nose and mouth bleeding profusely. All of this happened in front of my mother who was begging them to let me go."
  • "I felt my hands were about to explode because they were tied so tight. I asked the soldiers to loosen the handcuffs but they responded by shouting and using very obscene language."
  • "I felt extreme pain in my neck and back. I felt dizzy and was about to vomit. Whenever I lifted my head up, the soldiers would shout at me."
  • "I was interrogated for three days. My hands and feet were tied to the wall in the shape of a cross. I spent one full day in this position. I felt extreme pain and swelling in my hands. The soldiers then moved me to solitary confinement where I spent 15 days. I used to urinate in the cell."
  • "After two hours, the interrogator producer another paper written in Hebrew and asked me to sign it, saying it was an approval (for medical treatment), so I signed it. It turned out later that I had signed a full confession."

Interrogations

After arrest and transfer, they usually begin straightaway with no right to counsel or an adult present. Unlike in Israel, they're not videotaped to hide incriminating evidence.

Commonly, children are kept painfully shackled, threatened, cursed, tortured and abused during the process, at times while hooded. Interrogations continue for days until coerced (or at times tricked) confessions are gotten.

DCI/Palestine "encountered (no) single case where an adult in a position of authority, such as a soldier, doctor, judicial officer or prison staff, intervened on behalf of a child who was mistreated."

Female Detainees

They comprise a small percent of the total, around 4% in 2008. Like others, female child prisoners are usually incarcerated in Israel with adults, in violation of international law prohibiting both practices.

One of many poignant images shows a teenage girl and the caption: "I am not a terrorist."

Another, on the Separation Wall, shows a young girl holding balloons on strings being lifted into the air to liberation.

Administrative Detention

Under Military Order 1591, Palestinians, including children, can be detained without charge or trial for renewable six-month periods that can last years.

Fourth Geneva's Article 42 and ICCPR's Article 4 permit them only if:

"the security of the state...makes it absolutely necessary (and only according to) regular procedure," excluding long-term renewable extensions.

Under Article 37(b) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), no:

"child should be deprived of his or her liberty arbitrarily and detention should only be used as a measure of last resort for the shortest appropriate period of time."

Most often, they're based on secret evidence, withheld from detainees and their counsel, making a proper defense impossible. At any time in 2008, up to 700 Palestinian, men, women and children were administratively detained, a procedure Israelis use against political leaders, human rights activists, protestors, and children accused of stone-throwing. It's also common for them to get multiple detention orders, renewed within days of their expected release.

Soldiers Justifying Palestinian Beatings and Abuse

On May 21, 2009, B'Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) called on the chief of staff and judge advocate general to investigate an item called: "A Blow is Sometimes an Integral Part of the Mission," presenting testimonies of Col. Itai Virob, commander of Kfir Brigade and Lt. Col. Shimon, commander of Shimshon Battalion.

They admitted authorizing harassment, violence, injurious, and at times lethal means, against Palestinians "to extract information (during) interrogation."

Col. Virob said:

"The mission is to try to upset the equilibrium of the neighborhood, village, or particular location, to get information....or to cause a hostile entity inside the village to make mistakes as a result or in reaction to actions of our forces, and thus disrupt his activity and expose it."

Tactics include "throwing stun grenades, breaking into a number of houses or institutions....arresting residents, seizing areas on rooftops, and the like....We will detain, interrogate and use suitable pressure on every person to get to the one terrorist. Of all the means of pressure that we use, the vast majority are against persons who are not involved."

Lt. Col. Shimon said:

"There are no exercises, nothing written (and to get information we) use force. These orders (include) routine use of violence and potentially injury-causing (acts, at times) lethal, against civilians, and harassing them, (even though they're) patently illegal," but are routinely used nonetheless.

It's a policy of premeditated state-sponsored terror against defenseless men, women and children. On May 15, 2009, the UN Committee Against Torture (monitoring Convention Against Torture violations) issued Concluding Observations and conclusions on Israeli practices, expressing grave concerns about:

  • torture, abuse, degrading and humiliating treatment during and after interrogations;
  • Palestinian children detained and interrogated without counsel and/or family members present;
  • torture used to extract confessions;
  • 700 Palestinian children detained annually and prosecuted in military courts affording no judicial fairness;
  • 95% of convictions based on coerced confessions;
  • prisons in Israel violate international law and impede family visits, and
  • administrative detentions violate Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture because of abusive interrogations, secret evidence, and long incarcerations.

Israel is a serial scofflaw, systematically scorning and violating international laws and norms with impunity. DCI/Palestine says torture and abuse remain unabated, "from the moment of arrest, and continue during transfer, interrogation and detention."

The practice is "widespread, systematic and institutionalised, suggesting complicity at all levels of the political and military chain of command. This abusive system operates with the knowledge and assistance of some doctors, and is overseen by a military court system that ignores basic principles of juvenile justice and fair trial rights, whilst willfully turning a blind eye to the presentation in court of one coerced confession after another."

Israeli lawlessness is ignored by the world community that's obligated to act under international law, but won't. Short of enforced accountability, it's "unlikely that the situation endured by Palestinian children (their siblings, parents, and friends) described (above), will improve."


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