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Opdateret 05.09.2018

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International konference i København 22.-24. oktober 2010

Arr.: Internationalt Forum om Politiske fanger

Ulla Sandbæk, Human Rights March, oplæg på work shop om palæstinensiske børnefanger

 History

It is well known that what is to-day  Israel  and the occupied  Palestinian   Territory  used to be a British mandate handed over by the Brits to UN which in 1947 established United Nations Special Committee on  Palestine  .Palestine was to be partitioned into an Arabic and a Jewish state and  Jerusalem  was to be placed under International trusteeship. As we all know it did not happen that way.

 May 14th  Israel  declared its independence. The Arabic countries launched a war against the newly proclaimed state of  Israel  . According to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe´ the war was started because prior to the declaration of the Israeli state an ethnic cleansing had taken place. The Arab states lost the war which meant that Israelexpanded its territory beyond the UN plan of partition ,and  Palestine  was partitioned between  Israel Egypt and Jordan .

In June 67 the 6-day war broke out , a war between the Arab States and  Israel  which again the Arab States lost.Israel took control over several Arabic areas and subjected them to military administration. What is to-day known as the West Bank Israel called Judea and  Samaria. Only in 1978  Israel  accepted the term the  West Bank,

Israel  claims that the  West Bank  is NOT an occupied territory because the area did not belong to a sovereign State. They think that the area should be named as “disputed territories” That the West Bank is an occupied territory is clear to everybody but  Israel  . The question is from whom it was occupied. When  Israel  occupied theWest Bank in 1967 the area was under Jordanian administration since 1948. In the 70ties the Palestinian Liberation Organization known as the PLO was recognized as the representative of the Palestinian people, and obtained observation status in the UN. In 1988  Jordan  lifted all the administrative and legal ties with the West Bank and king Hussein handed over the  West Bank  to the Palestinian people as a means for them to build their own state. The conclusion therefore must be that it is PLO who represents the Palestinian people in the  West Bank  and has the territorial and administrative right to the area.

The Arabic side claims that Israel must withdraw to the pre 67 borders which is also what the UN resolution 242 states in two principles for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East namely 1. the withdrawal of  Israel  ’s armed forces from occupied territories – notice that the UN definition IS occupied territory- and 2 the ceasing of all military actions and the right to live within secure and recognized borders.

Unfortunately the text of resolution 242 is unclear. It mentions withdrawal from “occupied territories” and not THE occupied territories. And as we heard  Israel  claims that  Palestine  is NOT occupied.

   Israel  ’s attitude toward the resolution is that  ISRAEL  has the right to live within secure and recognized borders. And that this right is denied  Israel  because the Arabs purposefully have ignores the need for peace negotiations

 I will not here mention all the UN resolutions which state that  Israel  IS occupying the  West Bank  . None of them have moved  Israel  an inch and that has a strong impact on the way  Israel  is treating the Palestinian Population. Because  Israel  does not recognize that  Palestine  is an occupied territory they also do not recognize that the Palestinian people are protected by International Humanitarian laws to which  Israel  is a signatory. In particular the 4th Geneva Convention. Israel is signatory to the convention but Israel has not signed the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Konvention relating to the protection of victims of International armed conflict namely protocol 1. Several of the regulations are however considered customary laws. Among them is article 75 which contains basic human rights under an occupation.

 One of the most important conventions which applies under occupation besides the Geneva Convention is the Haag Convention which  Israel  has not signed. But the Israeli supreme court has in several sentences stated that the convention is customary international law. Other importantconventions are the convention on the rights of children and the convention on torture.

    Israel  has the opinion that international conventions about human rights are only valid between a state and its citizens and that their validity does not extend beyond the boundaries of the state.

 Let me just mention another aspect of Human Rights which Israel does not recognize namely article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood”

 Besides international Conventions there are criminal laws with due process rights.

Due process rights in criminal law constitute an essential part of an assortment, or “bundle of rights,” granted to all defendants, suspects and detainees, and is generally known as the right to a fair trial. Due process rights ensure that every defendant standing trial - in any court - is granted the means to defend against the charges brought against him. These means include, inter alia, the rights to understand the charges brought against him, to present a full defence, to have the effective assistance of counsel, to interrogate witnesses, and several other rights regarded as ‘procedural’ rights, relevant to the establishment of conditions for a fair trial. In their absence, there can be no just trial, and, likewise, their violation increases the risk of miscarriage of justice. Basic rights are:

Presumption of innocence

The right to a public trial

The right to be notified of the charges

The right to counsel and the effective assistance of Counsel

The right to be tried without undue delay

The right to present evidence and witnesses

The right to interpretation.

None of these conditions are met when Palestinian children are brought to trial as we shall see, when I shall present two cases of arrests and detention of Palestinian children.

But before I do that I will read out parts of a transcript of a broadcast in the BBC about the subject.

 Eran Efrati is a former commander in  Israel  's army. He served in the occupied  West Bank  .

In a discreet park in Jerusalem BBC meets him to discuss allegations that soldiers like him often mistreat Palestinian minors, suspected of throwing stones.

Mr Efrati - who left the army five months ago - says the allegations are true:

''I never arrested anyone younger than nine or 10, but 14, 13, 11 for me, they're still kids. But they're arrested like adults.

"Every soldier who was in the  Occupied   Territories  can tell you the same story. The first months after I left the army I dreamed about kids all the time. Jewish kids. Arab kids. Screaming.

"You take the kid, you blindfold him, you handcuff him, he's really shaking... Sometimes you cuff his legs too. Sometimes it cuts off the circulation.

"He doesn't understand a word of what's going on around him. He doesn't know what you're going to do with him. He just knows we are soldiers with guns. That we kill people. Maybe they think we're going to kill him.

"A lot of the time they're peeing their pants, just sit there peeing their pants, crying. But usually they're very quiet.''

''Maybe [the kid is] blindfolded for him not to see the base and how we're working... But I believe maybe we put the blindfold because we don't want to see his eyes. You don't want him to look at us - you know, beg us to stop, or cry in front of us. It's a lot easier if we don't see his eyes.

''When the kid is sitting there in the base, nobody is thinking of him as a kid, you know - if there is someone blindfolded and handcuffed, he's probably done something really bad. It's OK to slap him, it's OK to spit on him, it's OK to kick him sometimes. It doesn't really matter.''

Israel  's military denies any suggestion that the abuse of young Palestinians is routine, but the army says it has to guard against Palestinian children involved in what it describes as "acts of terror".

Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibowitz is a spokeswoman for  Israel  's military. She says ''Even though it's just a stone or just a Molotov cocktail, they're deadly weapons. Doesn't matter who did it - they're deadly weapons," she said.

"Almost every other week we find a 14 or 15-year-old carrying an explosive belt or grenade on his body, in one of the crossings.

"This is the situation we live in, and since we are defending ourselves and we want to punish those terrorists, we have no choice but to find them, to punish them - and hope that we won't return to this."

Human rights groups are calling on the international community to investigate what they say are  Israel  's violations of children's rights.

So when now we are going to listen to 2 cases recorded by Defence for Children International and Adammeer a prison support and human rights organization let us remember what the Israeli commander told the BBC that the children’s reports are authentic.

Jihad was asleep when soldiers stormed the family home at 1:00am, back in April 2010. ‘We all came out of the house to the yard and I saw six jeeps a truck, and many soldiers surrounding the house,’ recalls Jihad. The soldiers tied and blindfolded Jihad and put him on the floor of a military vehicle before transferring him to Huwwara Interrogation and Detention Centre, in the occupied  West Bank  . Several days later Jihad was taken to another detention centre for interrogation. ‘The interrogator Saleh accused me of throwing stones and Molotov cocktails,’ recalls Jihad. ‘He kept shouting and saying he would send me to the cells in Al Jalame detention centre. He said he would give me a military interrogation. I became very scared of the interrogator.’ Three hours into the interrogation, Jihad confessed, and on 13 May, he was transferred to Megiddo Prison, inside  Israel  .

Under Israeli prison regulations, prisoners are supposed to receive a family visit every two weeks. However, Jihad did not receive his first visit until more than three months after his arrest. ‘I don’t know why I was denied family visits,’ says Jihad, I tried to ask around but all they told me was that there was ‘confidential information’ against me. I still don’t know what information they are talking about. Jihad’s mother Najat recalls those three months ‘as the worst three months of my life. It was the first time any of my children had slept outside the house. It was a very difficult time.’ Najat recalls that it took the Israeli authorities more than two-and-a-half months to process her application to visit her son in prison inside  Israel  .

Jihad was expecting a second family visit but no one from his family came. ‘One of the detainees from my village was told by his family that the Red Cross had called my mother and informed her that they could not visit me. I still don’t know why they don’t allow family visits. When the children in my room receive family visits, I feel terrible because they get to see their families and I don’t. When they return to the room they have money and clothes and things get a little better for them. I don’t know the news of my family, my friends or my school,’ says Jihad. ‘I feel a huge gap because of the lack of communication. I’m losing so many details that I consider important to know. I want to see them. I want to talk to them. I was told that my family is really upset because of this.’ Jihad says he knows many children who are denied family visits.

Jihad’s mother and two younger brothers, Amjad (10) and Abdel Rahman (3) were finally allowed to visit him again on 21 September 2010. ‘I hardly had any sleep the night before,’ recalls Najat. ‘I was worried I wouldn’t wake up in time to catch the Red Cross bus to  Megiddo  . I so badly wanted to get enough sleep to be in good shape the following day, but I couldn’t. This is what always happens to me the night before the prison visit.’ Najat left the family home at 6:00am the next morning, with her two youngest children. ‘I didn’t have anything to eat or drink, I had nt appetite. We waited 45 minutes for the bus at the junction and arrived at Qalqiliya checkpoint at around 7:15am. There were about 100 people at the checkpoint,’ recalls Najat. ‘The checkpoint was packed and we queued in line and waited our turn. Soldiers x-rayed our bags, checked our identification card and our Red Cross tickets on their computers and asked us to go through the turnstiles without our shoes. Meanwhile, soldiers with big guns shouted at us through loudspeakers from concrete bridges installed two meters above our heads. We were caged, and nobody could go in or out. At one point soldiers asked my two young boys to go through the turnstile on their own, but I refused. I was terrified to be separated from them; they are too young to go on their own. In the end they allowed me to keep my youngest son with me, but insisted that Amjad go through another gate on his own.’

Once Najat had passed through the checkpoint with her children, she waited another two hours for everybody else to pass through before boarding the bus which then took them to Megiddo Prison, where Jihad was waiting.

On arrival outside the prison, Najat bought ten packets of cigarettes to take to Jihad, ‘not because he smokes, but because he trades cigarettes for other things that he needs in prison, like shampoo and soft drinks,’ says Najat. ‘I also bought more cigarettes to take to other prisoners who are deprived of family visits as punishment. Jihad wanted me to do this as a favor to them. I also had a T-shirt and some underwear for Jihad ’ Once inside the prison, Najat waited for Jihad’s name to be called and then hurried towards the glass partition separating the visitors from the inmate. ‘I was so happy to see Jihad,’ remembers Najat, ‘but I couldn’t touch or kiss him. I spoke to him through an intercom system which I think is controlled by the soldiers. It was difficult for us to hear each other because all the other families were talking to their children at the same time. He asked me about his friends back in the village and wanted to know the news of relatives and friends. He was very happy to see his youngest brother; he had asked me to bring him along with me this time. My youngest son was overwhelmed and confused and didn’t say a word.’

Najat asked her son how he was, and how he spent his time in prison. ‘He told me he shared a room with 10 other children and they cooked their own food. They had an electric kettle in the room which they used to boil eggs and potatoes and to make coffee and tea. We had hardly started talking when the intercom was suddenly disconnected. The visit had lasted 4 minutes. I left at 12:00 through another door feeling both happy and sad at the same time.’

Najat waited outside the prison with her two children until 2:30pm for the bus to take them back to Qalqiliya checkpoint. ‘It was 6:30pm when we finally got home completely drained, nearly 12 hours after leaving.’ Najat’s permit to visit Jihad is valid until 29 July 2011, but her husband was only given a one-time permit to visit their son. ‘Jihad has still not been sentenced, says Najat. ‘I think he has already had eight or nine court appearances. I so badly want him out of prison. He missed the last two months of school when he was arrested. I am worried he might loose interest in school the longer he stays in jail. I miss him. The house feels different without him. I regret not having a picture of him like I do for my other children. The only picture I have of him is the one on his identification card.’

Jihad will be sentenced on 31 October 2010, to 10 months imprisonment and a fine of 3,000 shekels (US $780), as part of a plea bargain arrangement. Although Jihad maintains his innocence and says that he was threatened during interrogation.

Before going to the next case let me say a few words about the judicial system and plea bargaining.

 Every Palestinian is tried in a military court. Proceedings in the military courts disregard many basic fair trial rights and general principles of juvenile justice are simply not applied. It is questionable whether the use of military courts to try civilians can ever satisfy the requirements under international human rights law to a trial before an independent and impartial tribunal, as the judges are all serving officers subject to military discipline and dependent on superiors for promotion. Resort to military tribunals should therefore be exceptional and limited to cases where regular civilian courts are unable to undertake trials with regard to the specific class of individuals and offences.  Military tribunals should afford the full guarantees stipulated in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) (ICCPR).

 All of this is only heightened in the case of children. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) (CRC), ratified by Israel in 1991, specifically recognises the particular vulnerability of children by providing that detention should be a measure of last resort (Article 37(c)) and that states should implement measures whenever appropriate that steer children away from judicial proceedings (Article 40(3)). These arguments are all the more compelling when faced with prosecution before a military tribunal where fewer fair trial protections exist, and juvenile justice standards appear almost non-existent.

In almost all cases, the primary evidence against the children is the confession extracted during a coercive interrogation........

 It is rare for a child or his or her family to be told why he or she is being detained . The most common charge is for throwing stones. The maximum sentence for throwing stones at a moving vehicle is 20 years.


What all of the cases have in common is that Palestinian children are arrested either near the Wall, an illegal settlement or a settler by-pass road, all of which stand as daily reminders to these children that they are living under occupation.

 The child is also not told or where he or she is being taken. These journeys can last anywhere between 20 minutes up to several hours during which abuse is common.

On arrival at an interrogation and detention centre the child is either placed in a cell or taken straight for interrogation after a brief medical check. The child is invariably denied access to a lawyer, for days or weeks until the end of the interrogation process,

 Even children as young as 12 years are denied visits from their families and will generally not be permitted to see a lawyer until after they have provided a confession to the interrogator. The military tribunals regard Palestinians as minors until their 16th birthday, unlike the civil courts in  Israel  where minors are considered to be minors until their 18th birthday. But they often arrest children age 12-15 as well.

Whilst under interrogation children are subjected to a number of prohibited techniques, including

the excessive use of blindfolds and handcuffs; slapping and kicking; painful position abuse for long periods of time; solitary confinement and sleep deprivation; and a combination of physical and psychological threats to the child, and the child’s family.

 During 2008, lawyers for DCI-Palestine made 75 visits to Israeli interrogation and detention centres and prisons and met with 169 children in detention. During these visits the children informed the lawyers about the circumstances of their arrest and the conditions in detention. Living conditions for Palestinian children in Israeli detention did not materially improve in 2008. Common complaints received by DCI-Palestine include overcrowding, poor ventilation and access to natural light, poor quality and inadequate amounts of food, harsh treatment by prison officials and boredom.

 Once sentenced, the overwhelming majority of Palestinian children like Jihad are detained inside  Israel  , All but one of the prisons where  Israel  detains Palestinian children are located inside

Israel  , in breach of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which provides that an occupying power must detain residents of an occupied territory inside that territory. The practical consequence of this violation is that many prisoners do not receive any family visits at all as their relatives are denied permits to enter  Israel  . And only Israeli lawyers and residents of East Jerusalem can visit prison facilities inside  Israel  .

 Also many children receive very limited education if any at all. Education is only provided in two out of five of the prisons used to detain Palestinian children. In the two prisons where education is provided, it is limited to a few hours per week.

The ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities is widespread, systematic and institutionalised. This system operates within a general culture of brutality and impunity. Between 2001 and 2008, over 600 complaints were filed against Israeli Security Agency (ISA) interrogators for alleged ill-treatment and torture. To date, there has not been a single criminal investigation.

Unless and until there is some level of accountability for what amounts to serious breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, both at the domestic and international level, the ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children at the hands of Israeli authorities will continue unchecked.

Plea bargain means that the child pleas guilty even if he or she is not guilty at all. Pleading guilty in the Israeli military court system is usually the quickest way for children to be released. Gerard Horton who is a spokesman for Defence Children International tells that  Israel  arrested 9,000 Palestinians last year. Seven hundred of those were children. Since 2000, around 6,500 Palestinian children have been detained.

Mr Horton says the military tribunals need to process cases quickly.

DCI believes the system is designed so that it is in an adult or a child's interest to plead guilty.

Gerard Horton says Palestinians tend to end up in jail longer if they try to fight their case. ''He's a child. His friends are playing in the street and he is in handcuffs.

With no faith in the system and the potential for harsh sentences, approximately 95% of cases end in the child pleading guilty, whether the offence was committed or not. Once obtained, it is these confessions that constitute the primary evidence against Palestinian children in the military courts. Most children when they confess 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

 The second case is the story of Mohammad.

Day one

 On the evening of 6 February 2010, Mohammad Mahmoud Dawoud Halabiyeh was walking with his friends Anas and Ayyad in their hometown of Abu Dis, an East Jerusalem neighborhood cut off from  Jerusalem  by the Annexation Wall. As they walked past the Israeli military camp near their town, they were surprised by an Israeli Border Police patrol coming from behind a nearby stand of olive trees. The soldiers kept their guns trained threateningly at the boys as they advanced towards Mohammad and his friends. When they reached the boys, the soldiers first seized Anas, who raised his arms in surrender. Petrified at their sight, Mohammad started running in the direction of his home. In the process, he jumped off an unfinished house and fell face first into a ditch approximately four to five meters deep, fracturing the tibia and fibula bones of his left leg, just above the ankle.

 Soon after, one of the soldiers threw his steel helmet from above at Mohammad who lay injured on the ground and then worked his way down. When Mohammad told the soldier that he broke his leg, he did not believe him and instead started laughing and threw a sound bomb at him.

 The soldiers then forced Mohammad to stand, but as he was visibly limping, two soldiers assented to carrying the injured Mohammad. However, as they carried him, blows from the other soldiers and sexually degrading insults against Mohammad’s mother and sisters continued to rain down.

After they arrived at the Israeli military base, the soldiers lay Mohammad on the ground and started shaking his leg while questioning him about his family and friends. They then reverted back to beating the boy until they forced him to sit on the ground, blindfolded him and handcuffed his hands to the front with plastic cuffs, which they tightened painfully.

 The unrelenting physical and verbal abuse lasted about half an hour until a white private car arrived to take Mohammad to the Hadassah hospital, located in  Mount   Scopus  in  East Jerusalem  . During the 40-minute drive, a soldier continued to punch Mohammad in the face and kick at his broken leg. Mohammad’s right eye became swollen from these punches.

 The abuse from the soldiers continued even after their arrival at the hospital where Israeli soldiers accompanied Mohammad during every stage of the medical examinations.. The soldiers continued to hit Mohammad whenever the doctor and other medical staff were away, in the X-room and in the patient room where they hid their actions behind a privacy curtain that they placed around Mohammad’s bed.

  the beatings according to Mohammad’s description, were an attempt to coerce him to remain quiet about the torture he’d endured at the hands of the Israeli soldiers following the injury of his leg.

 However, when Mohammad told the soldiers that he would disclose everything that was happening and tried to shout for the doctor, the soldiers covered his mouth with adhesive tape and handcuffed his hands to either side of the bed.

 Later, when Mohammad was taken to have a plaster cast applied to his leg without the soldiers present, he told the doctor what was happening to him. The doctor told Mohammad to call him when the soldiers tried to abuse him again. Mohammad was then returned to a patient room and put in a hospital bed behind a curtain.

 At that point, the two soldiers again put the adhesive tape on Mohammad’s mouth, repeated their threats not to tell anyone what had happened, and beat him with an iron baton, smeared a tomato they’d brought over his face and pushed syringes into his hand and leg multiple times.

 Mohammad’s father Mahmoud arrived at the hospital.  Mohammad told his father that the soldiers were beating him,

Mahmoud, used a visitor’s mobile phone, and called the Israeli police three times, asking their intervention with the soldiers so that they would stop beating his son. The police never came and the abuse continued.

 Throughout the rest of the night, the soldiers remained in the hospital with Mohammad continuing the abuse telling Mohammad they were going to deform his face and break his other leg. They refused to let Mohammad sleep and would hit him whenever he dozed off. The abuse and torture was intended to inflict so much pain and fear in Mohammad so that he would not complain to anyone about his experience.

 Day Two: Torture During Transfer to the Police Station and During Interrogation

  Mohammad was shuttled into the Israeli military vehicle where the soldiers tied his hands and covered his eyes with a cap, which they tightened around his face.

During the drive to the Ma’ale Adumim police station the police officers in the car continued to assault Mohammad and pressure him not to tell anyone the truth of how he’d sustained his injuries. At one point in the car, Mohammad vomited from the ongoing beating, though he’d not been given anything to eat since his arrest the previous day.

 When they arrived at the Ma’ale Adumim police station, Mohammad was questioned for several hours by an Israeli interrogator. The interrogator accused Mohammad of throwing Molotov cocktails at Israeli military patrols and told him that his friend Anas had already confessed. He further mentioned that Anas told them that the three boys were on their way to throw Molotov cocktails when they were arrested the previous day in Abu Dis. The interrogator also said that Anas told them that Mohammad had thrown Molotov cocktails 15 times in the past. Mohammad denied the interrogator’s accusations.

 The interrogator then began to write down a false statement himself, writing that Mohammad said he threw the Molotov cocktails, and tried to force Mohammad to sign the statement. Mohammad refused to sign. The Israeli officer began to threaten to beat and kill him. Then he told Mohammad that he would do ‘sexual things’ to him and that “he liked doing that to young boys”.

 At 6 p.m. that day, more than 24 hours after Mohammad was arrested, he was finally given something to eat by officers at the Ma’ale Adumim police station. Mohammad gave a statement to his nterrogators, reiterating his earlier denial of any involvement in throwing Molotov cocktails and seeking action for the torture he’d undergone at the hands of the Israeli soldiers since his arrest. No copy of this statement was recorded or provided during pretrial disclosure by military prosecutors.

 Forced Confession

 At 8:30 p.m. that night, after more than a day with little food and no sleep, Mohammad signed a confession claiming that he’d thrown Molotov cocktails. He later told his lawyer, Addameer attorney Mahmoud Hassan, that he had made this confession out of fear after numerous threats by his inter­rogators that he would be subjected to further torture if he did not. A video of the interrogation at this point shows the Israeli interrogator drafting the written statement of Mohammad’s confession, prompting a tired and fearful Mohammad, asking leading questions and feeding him the words the interrogator wanted him to say. the written statement taken at this time was drafted by the interrogator in Hebrew, a language that Mohammad does not understand. The interrogation video, obtained by Adv. Hassan only after military prosecutors accidentally exposed its existence to him, reveals that the written statement omits most of Mohammad’s repeated references to the torture he endured at the hands of the Israeli soldiers in Abu Dis and at the hospital. The video also reveals that, although the interrogator indicated in the written statement that he’d read it aloud to Mohammad before Mohammad signed it, he did not.

the interrogator did not have sufficient Arabic skills to question the boy and understand his version of events. It is thus likely, that the interrogator made mistakes in the statement that he wrote, and by doing so, altered Mohammad’s statement. This is even more problematic when one considers that this statement serves as the primary evidence against Mohammad in his trial before the military courts.

  At one point in the forced confession, for example, Mohammad says he threw Molotov cocktails with a friend in late 2009; that friend, however, has been detained by  Israel  since December 2008, so this could not possibly have happened.

 Day three:

 That night, after seven or eight hours of interrogation, Mohammad was taken to  Etzion   Detention   Center  south of  Bethlehem  , to a cell holding a number of other detainees who were already sleeping. Mohammad recalls that the room was extremely cold, but the guards refused to give him a blanket when he asked. In the afternoon of the next day, on 8 February 2010, a doctor came, gave Mohammad a cursory medical examination and gave him a paracetemol tablet with a glass of water for his pain.  

Afterwards, two Nahshon officers took Mohammad for transfer to Ofer Prison, housed in Ofer Military Base near Ramallah. Mohammad at this point was shackled at the wrists and had no cane, hopping painfully on his one good leg. Mohammad arrived at Ofer at around 7 p.m., but was made to wait inside the Nahshon transfer vehicle until midnight before the Nahshon officers came to move him into the facility. However, when the prison officer at Ofer saw Mohammad and the state of his injuries, he refused to admit Mohammad to the prison there, instead instructing the Nahshon officers that he should go first to a hospital.

 Instead, however, the Nahshon officers returned Mohammad to Etzion, where the boy spent another cold night.

 Day Four: Transfer Back to Ofer Prison

 The following day, on 9 February, Mohammad was transferred back to Ofer, where he was held in a room with an iron grid, referred to as ‘the cage’. Later that day, Mohammad saw a prison doctor who promised to bring him a cane. That evening, prison officials brought Mohammad a pair of crutches, which he used for two days before obtaining a pair previously used by a friend from Abu Did

 Day Five: Mohammad Finally Receives Medical Treatment

 He was taken to Hadassah Ein Karem, a hospital located in the southwest of  Jerusalem  . The physicians there took X-rays of Mohammad’s injured jaw and gave him medication for the pain and to promote healthy repair to the injured bone.

 Mohammad was then returned to Ofer, where he remains at present. All motions to release him on bail were so far denied.

 CHARGES AND TRIAL  

On 16 February 2010, Israeli military prosecutors filed charges against Mohammad under the Israeli military orders that govern the OPT. Mohammad is accused of five offenses related to throwing Molotov cocktails in Abu Dis on a number of occasions between November 2009 and the date of his arrest in February.

 Mohammad’s military court trial began on 12 April 2010 with the reading of charges and the entering of Mohammad’s plea and is currently underway at  Ofer Military Court  inside a military base near Ramallah. Mohammad’s defense counsel, Adv. Hassan, estimates his trial will take about two months. On 26 August 2010, Adv. Hassan filed a request to the  Military Court  to release Mohammad on bail until the conclusion of the legal proceedings. The next hearing in Mohammad’s trial is scheduled for 6 September 2010, where the prosecution’s third witness, a police officer, is expected to testify before the court.


The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child … shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate per of time.

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – Article 37(b)

In all actions concerning children . . . the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - Article 3

 Not even the lawyers are treated with respect-

Regular complaints from lawyers appearing in the military courts include: difficulties in meeting with their clients in detention; the lack of adequate facilities to take confidential instructions; court documents written in Hebrew; and the provision of incomplete prosecution material, such as the absence of interrogation notes. Uْnder Military Order 378, a Palestinian detainee can be denied access to a lawyer for up to 90 days. In practice, lawyers commonly take instructions from their clients minutes before the hearing in the military court and plea bargains are entered into to avoid harsher sentences.

 The Israeli law of evidence provides for a presumption of innocence which is also supposed to apply to proceedings in the military courts, but according to a recent report, in 2006 full acquittals were obtained in just 0.29% of cases, suggesting a presumption not of innocence but of guilt.

 In practice, very few full evidentiary hearings are heard by the military courts. According to Yesh Din, of the 9,123 cases concluded in the courts in 2006, full evidentiary trials were conducted in only 130, or 1.42% of cases. The reason: “Attorneys representing suspects and defendants in the military courts believe that conducting a full evidentiary trial, including summoning witnesses and presenting testimony, generally results in a far harsher sentence, as a ‘punishment’ the court imposes on the defense attorney for not securing a plea bargain.”

A child’s right to a fair trial is guaranteed by Article 14 of the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights and Article 40 of Convention on the rights of the child and Articles 71 and 72 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949).

  DCI-Palestine lawyers are reluctant to run full evidentiary hearings for fear the child will remain longer in detention, as is explained by the organisations chief lawyer, Khaled Quzmar: ‘There are a number of reasons why we rarely challenge the cases. First, if we challenge the case and argue that the confession before the court was obtained through ill-treatment or torture, the interrogator will come and give evidence and deny any wrongdoing. In over 15 years of experience practising in the Israeli military court system, I can say that the military judge will always believe the military or police interrogator’s word over the word of a Palestinian child.

 Secondly, a child who pleads guilty will normally be sentenced within one month of arrest. A child who challenges the case, won’t be sentenced for between five to twelve months, during which time they will normally be kept in detention. Finally, a child who does challenge the case and is found guilty, will typically receive a sentence that is double or even triple what he or she would have received had they pleaded guilty. This is why few cases are challenged in the military courts, it simply makes matters worse for the child.’

 In practice, indictments containing the charge are given to the child’s lawyer on the day of the hearing to determine whether the child remains in detention until the end of the proceedings. In the vast majority of cases, Palestinian children are denied bail and remain in detention until the conclusion of proceedings.

It should be noted that wilfully depriving a person of their fair trial rights constitutes a grave breach of Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) for which personal criminal responsibility applies.

   Between January 2001 and December 2008, over 600 complaints were filed against Israeli Security Agency (ISA) interrogators for alleged ill-treatment and torture. The Police Investigation Department of the Ministry of Justice, the relevant authority charged with investigating these complaints, did not conduct a single criminal investigation.

These statistics accord with the experience of DCI-Palestine lawyers, as chief lawyer Khaled Quzmar explains: ‘In my experience, complaints that are lodged with the Israeli authorities result in the file being closed for ‘insufficient evidence’ and I have had a number of cases in which the Israelis did retaliate against the complainant. For example, in November 2008, I travelled on behalf of DCI-Palestine to  Holland  with an ex-child detainee for the purposes of speaking to Dutch school children. The child, Mohammad E. had been arrested and ill-treated by the Israeli army earlier in the year and lodged a complaint through the Israeli organisation, Yesh Din. Mohammad was informed that

he would only be granted a travel permit if he withdrew his complaint. Accordingly, he withdrew his complaint and was granted a travel permit. In the overwhelming majority of cases, Palestinians do not lodge complaints with the Israeli military or civil administration for fear of retaliation and the knowledge that the process is totally futile.’

 Complaints are also not lodged against torture

The prohibition against torture is universal and absolute. It can be found in both customary international law, as well as in a number of treaties including the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(1966) (ICCPR), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) (CRC) and the

UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984) (Convention Against Torture).  Israel  has ratified, and is bound by these treaties.

 In addition to prohibiting torture, the Convention Against Torture also prohibits other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (ill-treatment).

It follows from a combined reading of Article 1 (torture) and Article 16 (ill-treatment) that torture is an aggravated form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Both torture and the less serious act of ill-treatment are both absolutely prohibited under the Convention Against Torture. However, unlike in cases of torture, a finding of ill-treatment does not require the element of intention

and may be caused negligently. Further, degrading treatment or punishment may be defined as the infliction of pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, which aims at humiliating the victim.  

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 confinement;

• 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.

And finally subjection to painful shackling. The soldiers often leave the detainee shackled for a protracted period – frequently for many hours, which is painful and liable to cause permanent injury.

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.

 Generally, on arrival at an interrogation and detention centre, Palestinian children are given a cursory medical check by an army doctor. Disturbingly, these doctors appear to turn a blind eye when informed by the child that they have been mistreated.

DCI-Palestine has not encountered a single case where an adult in a position of authority, such as a soldier, doctor, judicial officer or prison staff, has intervened on behalf of a child who was mistreated. It is  overseen by a military court system that ignores basic principles of juvenile justice and fair trial rights, whilst willfully turning a blind eyeto 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.

 Let me conclude with the Concluding observations of the UN Human Rights Committee written september 2010 about  Israel  :

The State party should:

(a) Ensure that children are not tried as adults;

(b) Refrain from holding criminal proceedings against children in military courts, ensure that children are only detained as a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible time, and guarantee that proceedings involving children are audio-visually recorded and that trials are conducted in a prompt and impartial manner, in accordance with fair trial standards;

(c) Inform parents or close relatives of where the child is detained and provide the child with prompt access to free and independent legal assistance of its own choosing;

(d) Ensure that reports of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detained children are investigated promptly by an independent body.

 We have made these 4 points our own.