Israeli ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children – a report

Defense For Children International (DCI-Palestine) released a report which documents the widespread ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children at the hands of the Israeli army and police force – Palestinian Child Prisoners: The systematic and institutionalized ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities.

The release of the report came just days after an article was published in The Independent newspaper reporting the testimonies of two Israeli soldiers which detail the deliberate abuse of Palestinian children. One soldier is reported as saying that in an incident that occurred in a Palestinian village in March, he saw a lot of soldiers ‘just knee (Palestinians) because it’s boring, because you stand there for 10 hours, you’re not doing anything, so they beat people up.’

The report published contains the testimonies of 33 children, one as young as 10 years old, who bear witness to the abuse they received at the hands of soldiers from the moment of arrest through to an often violent interrogation.

Most of these children were arrested from villages near the Wall and illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. There is evidence that many children are painfully shackled for hours on end, kicked, beaten and threatened, some with death, until they provide confessions, some written in Hebrew, a language they do not speak or understand.

Following are some excerpts from this chill-shocking report. It is a must-read report and worth saving for your reference in the future. It can be downloaded from here and here (both PDF format):

Executive summary

The Israeli military court system in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has operated for over 42 years almost devoid of international scrutiny. Each year an average of 9,000 Palestinians are prosecuted in two Israeli military courts operating in the West Bank, including 700 children.

From the moment of arrest, Palestinian children encounter ill-treatment and in some cases torture, at the hands of Israeli soldiers, policemen and interrogators. Children are commonly arrested from the family home in the hours before dawn by heavily armed soldiers. The child is painfully bound, blindfolded and bundled into the back of a military vehicle without any indication as to why or where the child is being taken. […] Most children confess and some are forced to sign confessions written in Hebrew, a language they do not comprehend. These interrogations are not video recorded as is required under Israeli domestic law.

Children as young as 12 years are prosecuted in the Israeli military courts and are treated as adults as soon as they turn 16 […] In 91% of all cases involving Palestinian children, bail was denied. […] With no faith in the system and the potential for harsh sentences, approximately 95% of cases end in the child pleading guilty, whether the ofence was committed or not. […] Many children receive no family visits whilst in prison and limited education […]

Some examples of torture

What amounts to torture or ill-treatment will depend on the circumstances of each individual case. However, it is useful to list some of the types of circumstances that have been held to amount to torture and ill-treatment by the Committee as a general guidance:

– Restraining in very painful conditions;
– Hooding under special conditions;
– Playing loud music for prolonged periods of time;
– Threats, including death threats;
– Violent shaking;
– Kicking, punching and beating with implements;
– Using cold air to chill;
– Excessive use of force by law enforcement personnel and the military;
– Incommunicado detention (detention without access to a lawyer, doctor or the ability to communicate with family members);
– Solitary confnement;
– Sensorial deprivation and almost total prohibition of communication;
– Poor conditions of detention, including failure to provide food, water, heating in winter, proper washing facilities, overcrowding, lack of amenities, poor hygiene facilities, limited clothing and medical care.

The above list is by no means exhaustive and in every case, the particular vulnerability of the victim, such as his or her young age or medical condition should be taken into consideration.

Case Study No. 15

Name: Islam M.
Date of arrest: 31 December 2008
Age at arrest: 12
Accusation: Throwing stones

On 31 December 2008, 12-year-old Islam from a village near the West Bank city of Nablus, was out hunting birds in an olive grove when he and his friends were arrested by Israeli soldiers and accused of throwing stones. The olive grove was located about 500 metres from an Israeli settler bypass road.

At around 4:00pm we decided to go home. We collected the nets. Our houses are about one kilometre away. After walking 20 metres we heard a gun shot from the bypass road. We began walking faster towards our houses in the opposite direction to the bypass road. When we reached the edge of the village, we were surprised to see Israeli soldiers, about 10 to 20 metres behind us, with their guns pointed at us. They were shouting at us to stop in Hebrew. We stopped where we were. […] One of them approached me and grabbed my hand. Another soldier grabbed Hasan’s hand. They then tied our hands together with the same plastic cord. They tied my right hand to Hasan’s left hand. The soldiers then pushed us and forced us to walk towards our house. The soldiers did not tell me why they were arresting me […] When we reached the jeep, the soldiers blindfolded me and Hasan with a piece of cloth that the soldiers had. They pushed me inside the jeep. I fell on the ground. I was seated on the floor of the jeep. I lifted the blindfold using my untied left hand and looked around. I saw six soldiers inside the jeep, sitting on seats. Hasan and I were seated between their legs.

Twelve-year-old Islam was arrested by Israeli soldiers while out hunting birds. He was transferred to an Israeli military base for interrogation. Ten minutes later a soldier asked me […] whether I threw stones at the soldiers. Three minutes later a captain called Hasan, wearing a military uniform, came to us … He took me to a pine tree and made me sit on the ground. ‘Have you seen kids throwing stones at the soldiers?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ I answered. ‘Do you know them?’ He asked. ‘No,’ I said. He threatened to pour hot water on my face. ‘I don’t know who threw stones,’ I said. Five minutes later he took me to a place full of thorny bushes. He ordered me to sit in the bushes. I refused. He pushed me and I fell in the bushes. That really hurt me. They placed me inside a jeep […] Captain Hasan approached me and asked me to confess to throwing stones. I refused. ‘We’ll put you in jail, patriotic boy’ he said. […] A policeman in blue uniform came and took me to interrogation. I was still tied and blindfolded, but managed to see things from beneath the blindfold. In the interrogation room, there was one policeman with a solider sitting next to him. ‘You threw stones. You were photographed while throwing stones’ the policeman said. I denied it […] I asked the soldiers for food. They brought me an apple, one half rotten. I ate the good half and gave the rotten half back to the soldier […] They seated me on a chair for about five hours without asking me anything.

A policeman in blue uniform came and took me to an office. He allowed me to watch a DVD that had children throwing stones at soldiers. ‘See yourself throwing stones?’ He said. I did not see myself because I had not thrown stones. He then took me out of the room. I was kept alone, tied and blindfolded, sitting on the ground for three hours. (2 February 2009)

Islam was charged with throwing stones and fned NIS 1,000 (US$ 250) by a military court after entering into a plea bargain. He spent three days in detention in Ofer.

Case Study No. 22

Name: Afaf B.
Date of arrest: 5 February 2008
Age at arrest: 16
Accusation: Contact with a wanted person and the intention to carry out a suicide bombing

On 5 February 2008, Afaf and her father voluntarily went to the Israeli intelligence headquarters at Ras al-Amoud, Jerusalem, after being ordered to attend. Afaf was immediately taken for interrogation where she was accused of having contact with a wanted person and intending to carry out a suicide bombing. Afaf’s father was not permitted to remain with her during interrogation. Afaf was then interrogated for 59 consecutive days and then sentenced to 16 months imprisonment inside Israel.

The interrogator began asking me general questions about myself and how I was doing. I asked him to stop asking such questions and get straight to the reason why they brought me here. He said that I had committed some security ofences […] he then asked me about a young man called Murad … I agreed that I had never seen Murad but I used to talk to him on the phone […] The interrogator did not charge me directly with any wrongdoing, and he did not accuse me of a specifc accusation. He only said that I had committed some security ofences without giving any further details […] An hour later, the interrogator came back to the room and told me I was under arrest and that they would transfer me to Al Mascobiyya Interrogation and Detention Centre in Jerusalem. […]

Two interrogators named Arsan and David were already in the room. They had a typed paper written in Hebrew. They told me that this paper was sent via fax from the same interrogator who interrogated me earlier in Ras al-Amoud, and that I had confessed to doing many things. I told them that what was in the paper was a lie and that I did not confess to anything and no specifc accusation was made against me. They said that the paper says that I knew a young man named Murad and I knew that he was wanted by the intelligence … This interrogation lasted until midnight. […] In the morning of 6 February 2008, they came and took me to Jerusalem’s Magistrate’s Court. My hands and feet were tied. A lawyer hired by the State was waiting for me, but none of my family was there […] In the court, the prosecution asked for my detention to be extended for 10 days, relying on a secret file submitted to the judge. My lawyer objected and asked for my immediate release. However, the judge decided to extend my detention […]

Israeli Military CourtIsraeli Military Court

My interrogation lasted for several hours for 59 consecutive days. In one of the interrogation rounds, a tall interrogator told me that I should confess that I had asked Murad to help me carry out a suicide bombing. I denied that of course, and he slapped me so hard that I fell over to the ground and my mouth began bleeding.

On the seventh day of my arrest […] the interrogator told me that Murad had been arrested, and he had interrogated him. He added that Murad confessed that I asked him to help me to carry out a suicide bombing. […] After 10 days of interrogation […] I came back from the court and I was put in a room inside the Centre with another detainee named Nisreen Z. She was detained on a theft case. On the same day I had a stomach ache. Nisreen handed me a white pill, which turned out later to be a narcotic pill. I fainted for some time. When I woke up, Nisreen told me that I had said many things and confessed to many things and that it was recorded. I was then removed from the room and taken to the interrogation room. The tall interrogator asked me to confess to everything but I refused […] the interrogator played the recording. I heard myself speaking with Nisreen who was asking me many questions about Murad and carrying out a suicide bombing, and I would answer her ‘yes’ without giving further details […] I did not sign any confession papers. (23 December 2008)

Afaf was charged with contact with a wanted person and the intention to carry out a suicide bombing. She was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment by a military court after entering into a plea bargain. She is currently detained in Telmond Prison inside Israel. Afaf was released on 7 May 2009.

Case Study No. 33

Name: Ezzat H.
Date of arrest: 11 June 2008
Age at arrest: 10
Accusation: None

On 11 June 2008, Israeli soldiers stormed Ezzat’s family’s shop in a village near the West Bank town of Qalqiliya, situated near the Wall. The soldiers said that they were looking for a hand gun.

At around 10:30am, I was sitting in my father’s shop selling animal feed and eggs. I was wearing a red T-shirt and blue jeans. My brother Makkawi (7) and sister Lara (8) were sitting with me […] I was surprised by the arrival of two Israeli soldiers to the shop. One of them had dark skin, wearing khaki jeans and a black T-shirt with a blue vest on top. The other one was in green clothes. Both of them were wearing helmets and carrying black weapons. The soldier with the black T-shirt was carrying a pistol around his chest in addition to the assault rife.

They suddenly walked into the shop. Once they entered the shop, the soldier with the black T-shirt began shouting at me, telling me: ‘your father has sent us to you and we want the pistol your father has.’ I became terrifed and said: ‘my father has nothing. He doesn’t own such things.’ He slapped me hard across my right cheek and he slapped my brother on the face too. He then asked my siblings to get out of the shop. He asked me all over again and I told him we had nothing. He asked me to get out the pistol from the animal feed sacks. I answered him we had no pistol. He slapped me again and this time it was on my left cheek. […]

A group of locals gathered around the store and some of them tried to enter and help me, but the soldier standing by the door prevented them from doing so. When the other soldier did not find anything, he asked me again to tell him where the pistol was. When I answered him back saying: ‘we don’t have anything’ he punched me hard in my stomach and I fell over onto the empty egg boxes. I was crying and screaming because I could not stand the pain and I was terrified too.

The soldier with the black T-shirt made fun of me and imitated my crying. He spoke very fluent Arabic. He kept me inside the shop for 15 minutes. He then grabbed me by my T-shirt and dragged me out of the shop. I asked him to let me close the shop but he said leave it open so that it would be robbed. Some of my friends who were at the scene closed the shop.

When he dragged me out of the shop, he ordered me to walk in the street in front of him. He and the other soldier, who was pointing his weapon at me, walked behind me, and some people gathered around. While walking, the soldier in the black T-shirt would slap me hard on my neck now and then … I was slapped three to four times on my nape while walking towards the house. When we reached the house, 100 meters away, I saw many soldiers around the house and a number of dark green military vehicles. The word ‘Police’ was written on an olive coloured jeep. When I entered the house […] the soldier with the black T-shirt made me stand in the yard and asked me to get the pistol out of the flower basin. When I was about to answer him and say we had no pistol, he slapped me so hard that I fell down on my face in the fower basin. […]

My father was standing by the door of the guest room, where my family was held. The soldier slapped me on my nape in front of my father and I fell to the ground. He slapped me again on my nape and I fell to the ground after I stood up. All of this was in front of my father. He then lifted me in the air after he grabbed my T-shirt. He told my father that he was going to take me to prison […] He threatened to arrest my older sister who was 19 years old […] he then pushed me into the guest room where my mother and siblings were held. My mother was crying. When she saw me crying, she asked me why and I told her that I had been hit. She asked them to leave me alone and hit her instead. They told her that they would take me to prison. […] The soldier with the black T-shirt took me to the bedroom and slapped me at the door. He then brought my older sister to search and interrogate her while forcing me to stand by the kitchen door. They then moved me to another bedroom.

Torturing Ezzat HTorturing Ezzat H

While passing me, the soldier with the black T-shirt slapped me so hard on my face that I fell on the ground. He asked me to stay there in the room. He would go for five minutes and then come back to slap me on the face, and punch me several times in my stomach. I would shout and burst into tears. He would imitate me and make fun of me. He continued coming to the room around six times where he would hit me and slap me. […] I spent about one hour in the room all alone with the soldiers. During this hour, the soldier with the black T-shirt ordered me to stand on one foot and lift my hands up in the air with my back against the wall. This lasted for about half an hour. I was exhausted but I did not dare to put my foot on the ground because he ordered me not to. […] The soldier with the black T-shirt […] then brought my older sister and asked me whether I cared about her or not. I said: ‘yes I do.’ He then asked me to tell him where the pistol was and he would not tell my father. I said we did not have a pistol, so he took my sister out, and then came back and hit me all over my body. He left the room and after a while he came back and ofered me 10 Shekels if I would tell him where the pistol was. I told him I did not care about money. He really became so angry that he took of his helmet and hit me with it from two metres away. He asked me to bring him the helmet and when I did, he threw it again at me, but this time he missed. He again asked me to bring him the helmet but this time he did not hit me with it. Instead, he left the room for five minutes and came back and slapped me on the face and stomach without asking me anything. Once again he left the room and was gone for a while, and I was all alone in the room. He then came back and asked me about the pistol and I answered that we did not have any pistol. He slapped me twice on my face and pushed me back. He then left the room for a while and came back to repeat it all over again. […]

Afterwards, a soldier wearing black sunglasses came into the room where I was held and pointed his rife at me. The rife 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.’ I replied by saying that we had nothing. He lowered his rife and took out the bullets […] (21 June 2008)

After initially wishing to file a complaint against the soldiers involved, Ezzat’s father changed his mind for fear of retaliation.

Since DCI-Palestine last published a report on Palestinian child detainees (April 2008), the practice of ill-treatment and torture has continued unabated. During the course of the reporting period DCI-Palestine continued to receive numerous testimonies from Palestinian children speaking of their ill-treatment and torture at the hands of Israeli soldiers, policemen and security operatives. This abuse occurs from the moment of arrest, and continues during transfer, interrogation and detention. The ill-treatment documented by DCI-Palestine appears to be 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. This system imposed by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory operates beyond international legal norms and within a general culture of impunity.DCI-Palestine continues in its eforts to bring this situation to the attention of the international community which is itself bound by a number of legal obligations to ensure that these violations are fully investigated, and where appropriate, prosecuted and that such conduct is not rewarded.

Without some measure of accountability, it is unlikely that the situation endured by Palestinian children described in the pages above, will improve.

* Defence for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI-Palestine) is a national section of the international non-governmental child rights organisation and movement, Defence for Children International (DCI), established in 1979, with consultative status with ECOSOC. DCI-Palestine was established in 1992, and is dedicated to promoting and protecting the rights of Palestinian children in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), as well as other international, regional and local standards. As part of its ongoing work to uphold the rights of Palestinian children, DCI-Palestine provides free legal assistance, collects evidence, researches and drafts reports and conducts general advocacy targeting various duty bearers.

Thanks to Sabbah for this

1 Comment

  1. encoreppc said,

    June 30, 2009 at 06:56

    what in the name of God, such manner toward children,

    so imbecile

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