[RAMALLAH, 17 February 2009] – Six children were sentenced on Sunday to a one-month suspended prison term and NIS 750 each for allegedly throwing stones at the Wall.
Four weeks ago, DCI-Palestine reported the arrest and detention of seven children from Toura al-Gharbeiah village (Jenin) on 20 January 2009. Six of the children were arrested for allegedly throwing stones at the Wall over a period of several months. The seventh child, Murad (17), was arrested for alleged possession of weapons. He denied the allegation.
Two of the children, Amer Q. and Emad A. were charged with throwing stones at the Wall in August 2008, some five months prior to their dawn arrest. The other children were charged with throwing stones at the Wall in December 2008, and in two cases, in January 2009. These charges were made against the children after they were interrogated and intimidated into confessing to the allegation in the early hours of 20 January 2009.
The six children are unusually young, considering that the minimum age at which children can be tried in Israeli Military Courts is 12 years old:
- Osaid Q. (12 years old)
- Subhi A.H. (12 years old)
- Amer Q. (13 years old)
- Mohammad A. (13 years old)
- Bashir Q. (12 years old)
- Emad A. (15 years old)
The children were released on bail at 6:00pm on Thursday, 22 January, after the parents paid between NIS 1,500-3,500 (US $375–875) each. They stayed at home pending trial, scheduled for 15 February, and DCI-Palestine fieldworkers visited them to colelct statements from them.
On Sunday, 15 February, the children appeared in Salim court, northern West Bank. The military prosecutor sought to sentence each child to three-month prison terms; but the DCI-Palestine lawyer pleaded for their release on the basis that they were very young, and only charged with a minor offence.
DCI-Palestine and the military prosecutor reached an agreement whereby the children received a one-month suspended prison term and paid NIS 750 each before being released. The Court collected NIS 4,500 out of the money previously paid by the families for the bail.
In previous, similar cases, prosecutors have either refused to release the children, or kept the deposit money from the families. Perhaps the young age of these children has made a difference in this case. However, it is difficult not to see such arrests as motivated by punishment, harassment, or mere extortion. Toura al-Gharbeiah village is situated near Jenin, very close to the Wall and the seam zone ecompassing settlements into Israel. Palestinian communities living in these villages are often harassed by settler and the Israeli military, and their movements restricted for security reasons.
Another two children, Ahmad (12) and Munther (13), were arrested on 5 January 2009 after a demonstration near Hebron. They were held in detention in Hasharon prison inside Israel, in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention. DCI-Palestine recently learnt that Munther was also sentenced to one month in prison (5 months suspended sentence) and NIS 750.
The arrest and detention of the children in these circumstances does not conform to Israel’s treaty obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child or the Convention Against Torture.