Palestinian children like adults are subject to Israeli occupation forces’ military courts in the occupied Palestinian territories instead of civilian jurisdiction, which means far more limited rights and much harsher treatment than even the children Palestinian and other Arab citizens of Israel experience under Israel’s civilian jurisdiction, not to speak of Jewish children.
In the occupied territories except East Jerusalem, which Israel claims it has annexed, Palestinian children and the children of illegal Israeli settlers thus face very different treatment if they are accused of crimes by Israeli authorities.
According to Israeli occupation prison services, from February to November 2017 per month an average of 310 Palestinian minors from the occupied territories were in Israeli prison system for “security offenses”; an average of 60 of them were aged 12-15 during the period. In March 2016 the number of Palestinian children imprisoned had been 438 of which 98 were under the age of 16.
Defense for Children International – Palestine collected testimonies from 137 children from the occupied West Bank who were detained and prosecuted in Israeli occupation military courts. 74.5 % of the children reported physical violence after arrest and 62 % were ‘verbally abused, intimidated or humiliated’.
B’Tselem and HaMoked’s study study of 60 Palestinian boys detained and interrogated from May 2015 to October 2016 showed that 70 % of the boys had been kept handcuffed or otherwise restrained through initial interrogation.
26 of the children were held in solitary confinement during interrogation for an average of 12 days; the longest time a detained child was being held in solitary confinement by Israeli occupation during 2017 was 23 days.
Israel is the only state in the world which regularly prosecutes children in military courts – but only Palestinian children from the occupied territories. As part of Israel’s Apartheid system, illegal Israeli settlers’ children in the occupied territories are under civilian jurisdiction and prosecuted in civilian courts with access to lawyers and presence of parents during interrogation, whereas up to 95 % of Palestinian children lack presence of a parent during an interrogation.
Aforementioned study by B’Tselem and HaMoked showed that 30 % of children were not allowed to be speak to a lawyer before interrogation and those that were allowed to do so were allowed to speak to lawyers only through a phone.
Palestinian children can be detained for up to four days without Israel’s occupation forces’ having to bring them before occupation military court to ask for formal detention. Occupation military court can then give the occupation forces 15 days to interrogate children before bringing any charge against them and when children have been charged, they can be imprisoned by the occupation court for up to 400 days without a trial.
This is based on Israeli occupation forces’ military orders 1711 and 1726 from the year 2013. The idea is of course put vulnerable children under mental and physical pressure and make them to ‘confess’ whatever charges Israeli occupation wants to bring against them. 23 % of children are presented with and/or are made to sign documentation written in Hebrew during interrogation.
THREATS DURING INTERROGATION
Interrogation often includes threat against children’s close family and in up to 40 % threats of sexual violence against children. Genital torture of teenage boys has been reported, as has been threats of an anal rape with objects. Israel’s military order 1745 from year 2014 excluded children arrested for ‘security reasons’ from audio-visual recording of interrogations; the reason for this exclusion is self-evident.
In 2009 B’Tselem collected testimonies of 56 underage Palestinians interrogated in the Israeli occupation police station in the illegal Israeli Gush Etzion colony bloc on the southern part of the occupied West Bank and had faced violence, which included being kicked, punched and slapped and hit with objects, including guns. In 12 cases the minors themselves or their close relatives had been threatened with rape or other sexual violence. In 8 cases the childrens’ relatives were threatened with violence, in 6 cases they themselves were threatened with ‘execution’ and in 5 cases with torture with electricity.
In 2014 a teenage boy arrested from occupied East Jerusalem was interrogated for 28 days by Israeli occupation and was threatened with rape, being told that: “If you don’t want to talk from your mouth we’ll make you talk from elsewhere.”
As a result, the child ‘confessed’ a charge for an act he hadn’t committed.
RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT?
B’Tselem and HaMoked report found that 29 % cases children have not been told that they have a right to remain silent during interrogation, only 30 % of those who were told that they had that right understood what it meant.
In 2012 Israeli occupation military court judge accepted ‘confession’ extracted from a 14-year-old boy although his lawyer was able to show that among several breaches of Israel’s own laws the child had been three times told what were his ‘rights’ with the right to remain silent omitted.
Threats mentioned above of course are intended to break the will of children who try to remain silent, and with the long period given for interrogation with the child alone in presence of interrogators, the interrogators have been given ample time to break down the will of those children who try to remain silent – or who just don’t ‘confess’ to the charges against them.
Israeli occupation military court system is not intended to find truth of claimed ‘crimes’ or to protect the rights of children in the system; instead it’s role in the occupation is to be a factory line which produces ‘confessions’ against children, the most vulnerable part of the Palestinian population living under the 51-year-long Israeli occupation.
To Israel’s military courts Palestinian children are guilty because they are Palestinian, and because they are Palestinian, they don’t deserve or are entitled to the protection Israeli law (theoretically) gives to children, which in the occupied territories is reserved to the children of illegal Israeli settlers.
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IMPRISONMENT OF CHILDREN
Military court approves the unlawful extraction of a confession from a Palestinian minor .
New report by B’Tselem and HaMoked on detention of Palestinian teens in East Jerusalem: Israel systemically abuses minors, denies their rights .
YEAR-IN-REVIEW: WORST ABUSES AGAINST PALESTINIAN CHILDREN IN 2017
PHOTO: Ammar Awad / Reuters