Wednesday - 23 April 2014 
September 06, 2007

Palestinian Child Political Prisoners: Semi Annual Report 2007



Introduction

Palestinian children comprise over 50% of the population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Approximately 60% of children who are arrested in the West Bank and prosecuted in the Israeli Military Courts are represented by lawyers employed by Defence for Children International, Palestine Section (DCI).

DCI lawyers also provide a regular prison visiting service to Palestinian children. During these visits, statements are taken from them about their experiences in custody, particularly their experiences during interrogation.

The remaining 40% of Palestinian children who are arrested and prosecuted in the West Bank are represented by either privately paid Israeli or Palestinian lawyers or lawyers employed by other Palestinian non government organizations.

This report is based on approximately 200 cases conducted by DCI Palestine lawyers in the Israeli Military Courts during January to June 2007, and 30 statements taken from Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons and interrogation and detention centers, during the same period.

1) Palestinian Children in Israeli Custody

The arrest, interrogation and imprisonment of Palestinian children in the West Bank , by Israeli military forces, police officers and other Israeli security personnel, is not a new phenomenon. Israel has been continuously arresting and prosecuting children since its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967.

During the First Intifada, children were arrested and detained in mass numbers for stone throwing and other forms of political resistance. During the Second Intifada, Israel began to use administrative detention against Palestinian children and convicted and imprisoned children under the age of 14 years for periods of up to 6 months. According to the DCI Annual Report of 2002, these latter two detention patterns did not exist during the years of the First Intifada.

Over the years that have followed the Second Intifada, the arrest, interrogation and imprisonment of Palestinian children has become systematic, with monthly numbers of child prisoners averaging between 350 and 430 children. As at the end of July 2007, there were approximately 385 children in Israeli custody.

During the period January 2007 to June 2007, 47.1% of Palestinian children who appeared before the Israeli military courts were sentenced to terms of imprisonment of between 12 months and 3 years or more. 52.9% of children received sentences of imprisonment of up to 12 months. There were no children acquitted of formal charges.

The Israeli military system that governs the prosecution of Palestinian children in the West Bank is part of a wider military legal system that governs every aspect of a Palestinian resident's life.

At the centre of pre trial detention, prosecution and imprisonment is State approved and directed ill treatment and abuse, in many cases amounting to torture.

Detention and Imprisonment

At any given point during the period January to July 2007, between 382 and up to 416 Palestinian children were being held in Israeli prisons and interrogation and detention centers inside the West Bank and Israel.

Month/2007

Palestinian Children in Israeli Custody at end of Month

January

382

February

398

March

384

April

381

May

416

June

384

At the end of June 2007, approximately 160 children were serving sentences of imprisonment and 224 children were in custody awaiting trial or sentence.

The majority of children detained were held in prisons and interrogation centers located outside the occupied territory of the West Bank and inside Israel .

At any given point during the period January to June 2007, there were between 21 and up to 32 children being held in Israeli Interrogation and Detention Centers for interrogation purposes. The majority of these children were detained in Interrogation and Detention Centers at Salem in the North of Israel, at Al Moscobiyya in Jerusalem, at Huwarra near Nablus in the West Bank and at Etzion near Hebron in the West Bank.

Name Of Facility

Authority Administering Facility

Location inside or outside the Green Line (Israel or the West Bank)

Average Number of Children being held during period January/June 2007

Hasharon Prison

Israeli Prison Service (IPS)

Haifa/Tel Aviv

178

Ofek Prison

IPS

Haifa/Tel Aviv

4

Ofer Prison

IPS

Ramallah, West Bank

58

Megiddo Prison

IPS

North East Israel

12

Damoun Prison

IPS

Haifa

97

Ketziot Prison

IPS

Naqab Dessert, Mid South Israel

18

Huwarra Interrogation and Detention Centre

Israeli Army

Nablus, West Bank

6

Kadumim Interrogation and Detention Centre

Israeli Army

Tulkarem, West Bank

0

Etzion Interrogation and Detention Centre

Israeli Army

4

Kishon (Al Jalame) Interrogation Centre

IPS

North Israel

1

Binyamin Interrogation and Detention Centre

IPS

Ramallah, West Bank

7

Salem Interrogation and Detention Centre

Israeli Army

North East Israel

5

Al Moscobiyya Interrogation and Detention Centre

Israeli Police

Jerusalem

7

Petah Tikva Interrogation and Detention Centres

Israeli Police

Tel Aviv

1

Askelan Interrogation and Detention Centre

IPS

South West Coast of Israel

1

Ramle Compound and Hospital

IPS

Tel Aviv Region

0

At any given point during the same period, between 10 and up to 15 children were being held in administrative detention . Under Military Order 378, an order that administers and outlines the laws that govern Palestinian people in the West Bank, a Palestinian child can be detained in the custody of Israeli authorities without trial or charge for extendable periods of up to 6 months at a time. Under Military Orders 378 and 1226, the reasons for administrative detention, are not disclosed to the detainee or his or her defense lawyer at any stage of detention or court proceedings. These reasons are commonly referred to as secret evidence.

As at end of June 2007, there were 2 female Palestinian children in Israeli custody, one serving a sentence of imprisonment and another pending trial.

Case Study

Name: Rawan Farah (name changed for privacy)
Age: 16 years
Place of Residence : Hebron District
Date of Arrest: October 2006

Interviews at Hasharon Prison, April and July 2007.

On 15 October 2006, at 12.30pm, I was arrested at Atzion Israeli Settlement by Israeli police officers. They searched me and threatened to beat me if I did not provide them my name and tell them where I was from. They accused me of entering the settlement illegally. They found a knife in my bag. They put me in the car and I was transferred to Atzion Interrogation and Detention Centre. I was in the car for 15 minutes while they transferred me. They spoke to me in Arabic and one of the policemen asked me to lift my shirt. When I did this, he put his hand on my abdomen. There were two male policemen in the car with me. This is the first time I have ever been arrested.

Before going to the interrogation centre, I was taken to a police station. An Israeli officer there began shouting curses and threats at me. He demanded that I tell him what I had intended to do with the knife. He started to beat me with his hands. After that, a female soldier transferred me to another office and there she searched me while I was naked. She then took me to the doctor who examined me and after that she put me in an office where there were two soldiers to guard me. I was handcuffed and shackled.

I was then taken to Atzion and arrived there at about midnight. A doctor examined me there again. I was interrogated there for 12 continuous hours. During the interrogation they threatened to beat me if I did not confess. They cursed me and my family members. They touched certain parts of my body.

The interrogator said to me during the interview that they were going to transfer me to the Palestinian police so that the Palestinian police could collectively rape me. After he said this, I told them my name and I told them I went to the settlement to stab a soldier.

I didn't see a lawyer during the interrogation period. I was sentenced for 10 months imprisonment for having the knife in my bag. I am in a room where there are 2 other prisoners. The size of the room is about 6 square metres. There are 2 beds and one of the other prisoners sleeps on the ground.

Arrest, Transfer, Interrogation and Detention

The pre trial phase in the Israeli military legal system; arrest, transfer, interrogation and detention pending trial, takes advantage of a child's vulnerability, immaturity and powerlessness by eliciting a confession using violent interrogation methods, in circumstances where there are no pre trial legal rights. Amongst the denial of many other fundamental rights, children do not have the right to a parent, a responsible adult or a lawyer to be present during the interrogation process.

On average, Palestinian children are detained before being taken to court from between 8 and 21 days. As with adults, under Military Order 378, a child can be detained and interrogated for up to 90 days without charge.

Judicial officers in the Israeli Military Court system, who are legally qualified military personnel, adopt the rationale that these confessions are acceptable as evidence. This type of rationale is a not a product of any particular type of legal or judicial reasoning, but is politically motivated, and together with the denial of rights during the pre trial phase, has the effect of removing the presumption of innocence from the court proceedings.

Case Study

Name: Sabe' Mouneer Ibrahim Titiy
Age: 17 years
Place of Residence: Balata Refugee Camp, Nablus
Date of Arrest: 10 May 2007

On 10 May 2007, at 2am, I was arrested by Israeli soldiers at home. The day before, Israeli soldiers entered and raided my grandfather's house and asked him where I was. After they arrested me, they searched me and handcuffed me. They slapped me on my face and put me in the jeep.

While the jeep was moving, they were beating me on my body with their hands and kicking me with their feet. They were cursing me and members of my family. I asked them where they were taking me but no body replied. The trip lasted for two hours until we reached Huwarra Interrogation and Detention Centre. I realized this when we got there. I spent two days there and they didn't interrogate me. After that they transferred me to Petah Tikva Interrogation and Detention Centre in a civil car and there they took me to a doctor who examined me because my head was hurting me. He took photos of me.

They put me in the cells. The next day, interrogation started at 7am.I was handcuffed and shackled. When I asked for anything like going to the toilet or to drink water, the interrogator replied that I have to tell them everything before they would respond to my requests. The interrogator was screaming at me and told me that I had to confess to everything. He left me in the interrogation room handcuffed and put the air conditioning very high for a long period.

When he returned, he asked me whether I wanted to confess or not. They stopped interrogating me at 7pm. After that, they sent me to the cells. The next morning at about 7am, the interrogator came into my cell to wake me and started to kick me.

I was not allowed a shower or a change of clothes.

I was in solitary confinement and slept on a plastic mattress. The light was always on and during that period, they transferred me to another cell with an annoying and loud sound that led to bleeding from my ears. They took me to the doctor and he said that there was nothing wrong with me but he asked that my cell be changed.

During those 20 days, they transferred me to the collaborator section in Kishon (Al Jalami) Interrogation and Detention Centre. There were about 4 interrogators. One of them was treating me in a good way. Another was screaming and cursing all the time. I refused to sign a confession they had written. The interrogator asked the guards to come and beat me while my hands were cuffed and legs tied. He asked me again to sign and I refused and he told me that he would send me to the cells for a longer period and that I would be prevented from seeing anybody. I spent three days in the cells Al Jalami. After that, they returned me to Petah Tikva.

I refused to sign a confession again. I spent another 5 days inside a cell. I then confessed. I told him that I had planted the bomb they had been telling me about in interrogation. It wasn't a bomb, it was a fire extinguisher. The papers that I signed were in Hebrew and I didn't understand what it was written in these papers. My confession was as a result of the pressure of putting me in the cells.

During the interrogation period, I didn't see any of my family, my lawyer or someone from the Red Cross.

Interrogation Methods

Arrest

A sample of statements taken from children being held in Hasharon and Ofer Prisons during the period January to June 2007, indicate that all children confessed to the allegations put to them by Israeli military personnel during a lengthy and violent interrogation period. Interrogation periods were reported to occur from between 2 hours to intermittently over three weeks.

Children experienced continuous beating during the arrest and transfer to an interrogation centre. The majority of children were arrested at their homes in the dark hours of the early morning by armed Israeli military personnel who used forced entry on and the conducted a search of the family home. One child reported that bullets were shot at the house during entry.

Many children reported that they were cursed during the arrest process. A small percentage of children were arrested at other public locations and some reported that they were arrested at or on their way to school.

Transfer

All children reported that they were handcuffed and blindfolded when arrested, and the majority reported that their ankles were shackled when being transferred inside military jeeps. The majority of children reported being kicked, slapped and/or beaten repeatedly by military personnel using their hands or guns, in these jeeps, during the transfer to an interrogation center.

Interrogation

Children reported that they were subjected to the following forms of abuse by Israeli military personnel during the interrogation process:

Being left outside in the cold, or inside in cold temperatures, handcuffed and seated for several hours;
Being held in solitary confinement,;
Being beaten with use of hands by different soldiers at different points during the interrogation;
Being slapped by an interrogator;
Not being fed for up to 12 hours;
Being yelled at continuously and cursed for several hours;
Not being allowed to shower or change clothes for several days;
Being threatened with sexual abuse or touched inappropriately;
Being threatened with:- being beaten further, family members being beaten, being interrogated for a longer period, a family member being imprisoned for a long time or house demolition.

Case Study

Name: Ahmad Al Makhmour
Aged: 16 years
Place of Residence: Al Dheisha Refugee Camp, Bethlehem

Al Moscibiyya Interrogation Centre, 14 March 2007

I was arrested on the street near Rachel's Tomb by the Israeli Army. They claimed that I had thrown stones and Molotov Cocktails. When they arrested me they severely beat me. They threatened to arrest and also beat my mother and sister. They tried to pull down my pants when I was on the ground during the arrest.

After that, they transferred me to the checkpoint at the entrance to Bethlehem. Then they transferred me in a private vehicle to the Russian Compound (Al Moscobiyya).

I handed over my possessions there and they took photos of me and a doctor examined me because I suffered from an injury to the shoulder from the beatings during the arrest.

I was then interrogated for stone throwing and making and throwing Molotov Cocktails. During the interrogation, they beat me and they hit my head against the wall. I asked the interrogator to call my family but he refused. The interrogation lasted continuously from my arrival at the Russian Compound to midnight.

There were two interrogators and they were speaking Arabic. After the interrogation finished they asked me to sign papers. I didn't understand what I was signing. I later found out it was a confession to stone throwing and Molotov cocktails.

After that, I was transferred to the rooms and there were 6 other prisoners inside the room with me. There is a bed for each prisoner. I haven't been allowed to change my clothes. There are no windows in the room. We are allowed a shower once a day. There are no towels or soap and there is a smell of sewage in the cell.

II The Prosecution of Palestinian Children

Palestinian children living in the West Bank, who are arrested by the Israeli military are prosecuted in the same jurisdiction as Palestinian adults. There is no specialist branch of the Israeli Military Courts for Palestinian child political prisoners.

As for adults, Military Order 378 lists the offences that are prosecuted in the court and sets out the court rules and procedure. In terms of specific legal provisions that relate to Palestinian children, Military Order 132 defines a "child" as a person under the age of 16 and outlines the range of the term of imprisonment that apply when Palestinian children are sentenced. This range is set out in the Order according to age group and type of charge. A judge in the Military Court has complete discretion to determine the length of the term of imprisonment within these ranges.

Under Military order 132, children under the age of 12 cannot be imprisoned, however this does not mean they cannot be arrested. The usual practice is that children under the age of 12 who are arrested, are only ever detained by military personnel for a number of hours and then released to their parents subject to the payment of a fine. Children between the ages of 12 and 14 who are convicted of an offence under Military Order 378 are imprisoned for periods of up to 6 months. Children between the ages of 14 and 16 are imprisoned for periods of up to 12 months for offences that attract a penalty of 5 years imprisonment or less. This means that children over the age of 14 can receive terms of imprisonment of up to 25 years or life, for certain security offences.

Sentencing

The offences for which Palestinian children and adults are arrested and then prosecuted in the Israeli military courts, are listed under Military Order 378, and each offence is then followed by the maximum sentence that the respective offence attracts.

The following is an example of some of the offences and penalties set out in Military Order 378:

Causing Intentional Death
Death or another sentence, as ordered by the Court
The death penalty does not apply to persons under 18 years

Manslaughter
Life imprisonment

Damage to IDF Facility
Life imprisonment, or as ordered by the Court

Possessing Firearms/explosives
Life imprisonment, or as ordered by the Court

Violations against public order
Life Imprisonment or as ordered by the Court

Throwing of Objects Including a Rock
10 to 20 years imprisonment

Malicious Damage to Property
10 years imprisonment

Harm, Insults and Threats towards IDF
10 years imprisonment

Possession of a Knife
5 years imprisonment

Assault
5 years imprisonment

Assault With Injury
7 years imprisonment

Assault In Company
10 years imprisonment

Assault against IDF personnel or authority
10 years imprisonment

Apart from Military Order 132 discussed above, there are no formal sentencing guidelines in relation to children, nor is it clear, from judicial remarks made in sentence hearings, what mitigating factors are taken into account during the sentencing process, or whether or not case law and precedent have influenced the sentence outcome..

According to principals of juvenile justice, the factors that should be taken into account in sentencing children are: youth; vulnerability; immaturity; the need for rehabilitation; imprisonment as a last resort; that a child's normal growth and development including the requirement that education not be disturbed; and that a child should not being separated from his/her family.

However, sentencing results for Palestinian children convicted of offences under Military Order 378, do not reflect these principals or the ideals of the United Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory. Sentencing is a product of arbitrary judicial discretion (which is a political process) within the limits of the maximum terms of imprisonment a particular offence attracts. The result is that nearly all Palestinian children who are prosecuted in the military courts are imprisoned. There are no alternative sentencing options that are conducive to rehabilitation of the child.

Breakdown of DCI Closed Cases by Sentence during January to June 2007

Sentence

Number

Percentage

Up to 6 months

56

40.6%

6 to 12 Months

17

12.3%

12 months to 3 Years

48

34.8%

3 Years or more

17

12.3%

Total

138

100%

Case Study

DCI Palestine lawyer, Iyad Misk, who regularly appears at Ofer Military Court in the West Bank, entered into a plea bargain with the prosecutor and reached an agreement as to a particular sentencing result.

The children, Ahmed Ibrahim Darraj and Feras Ibrahim Samour Ismar were accused of throwing stones at military vehicles in February and January 2007. Both children were 13 years old when they were arrested, had never been arrested before and had no prior convictions.

The plea bargain reached was 21 days imprisonment, a suspended sentence to be set at the discretion of the sentencing judge and a fine of 1000NIS (240 USD) each.

In sentencing the children, the presiding Judge remarked as follows:-

The accused were invited to admit, according to their confessions, that they threw stones.

The original indictment included 4 offences however, following an agreement between the prosecutor and defense counsel, the offences were reduced to 2 charges.

In this context, they have both asked me to sentence each accused to 21 days imprisonment with a suspended sentence according to my discretion and a 1000 NIS fine.

The two parties substantiated this agreement by pointing out that the two accused persons have no criminal records, they confessed at the first opportunity thereby saving the court time, and their young ages.

I admit that I am hesitant to confirm this agreement by way of sentence. It is clear that the prosecution has not taken into account, the level of punishment that these types of offences attract. A few minutes ago, I finalized similar charges as a result of a similar agreement or deal between the defense and the prosecution. In that case, the accused was charged with one count of stone throwing and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. The only difference between the two cases, is that in the first case the accused was 17 years of age and these children are 13 years of age.

Furthermore, in the first file, the prosecutor informed the Court that there was a problem with the evidence in that case which lead to an agreement. In this case, there are two charges after modification and there is no problem with the evidence. The offence was repeated more than once by both accused.

The court is responsible for the protection and interests of the community and as such I see that the agreement is very lenient on the accused without any reason.

I am therefore very hesitant to confirm the agreement. However, I should clarify that Supreme Court decisions that apply to this area set out that I should confirm plea agreements..

I will confirm the deal but I must say that it is on the far lower scale of punishment that applies to this offence.

I sentence you to 21 days imprisonment and 1000 NIS or 1 month further imprisonment and an additional 4 month suspended sentence.

Court Procedure and Law

As at end of June 2007, 224 children were being detained pending trial or sentence in the Israeli Military Courts. Israeli Military Courts are located at either Salem, in the North of Israel, or at Ofer Military Court near Ramallah in the West Bank.

In the Israeli Military Courts, the Israeli Evidence Law and Criminal Procedural Law apply to the conduct of the prosecution process. Israeli Criminal Law does not apply. Where Israeli Criminal Law in the Israeli domestic jurisdiction defines criminal offences, the elements that constitute those offences and the maximum statutory penalty, Military Order 378 defines the offences for which children can be prosecuted in the Military Court. It also sets out maximum sentences. It does not set out the elements of those offences. This allows arresting, prosecuting and judicial military personnel, a wide discretion in deciding what actions constitute an offence.

Military Order 378 does not prescribe any statutory legal defenses. Common Law legal defenses or defenses that may be available under Case Law are also not available.

Under Israeli Evidence Law, the burden is on the defense to establish that a confession is unreliable evidence. The defense must establish that an accused was in an altered state of mind when making a confession, as a result of torture or ill treatment.

Confessional evidence of other children is regularly used in the arrest and prosecution of Palestinian children. Such evidence is given much weight by arresting and judicial officers who are members of the Israeli Military themselves. There are no cautionary guidelines taken as to the admission of corroborative evidence by other children

As a result, the majority of cases involve a plea bargaining exercise between the prosecutor and defense counsel. 100% of Palestinian children charged fro security offences in the military courts and represented by DCI during the reported period, were convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment.

Less than 1% of children represented by DCI in the first half of 2007 received bail pending the determination of their cases. About 8% (24 out of 200 cases) of children were arrested, interrogated for between 8 days and up to 2 months without charge. Some of these children were held for 8 days and were not interrogated. These children were not detained under administrative detention orders.

Nature of Cases Conducted and Closed by DCI Palestine Lawyers In First Half of 2007

Lower Military Court (Charge Matters)

138

Military Court of Appeal

6

Administrative Detention

3

Parole (2/3 rd Imprisonment Completed)

4

Extension of detention orders (for interrogation purposes) where children released without charge

24

Israeli civil criminal jurisdiction

4

Cases not finalized by DCI

20

Total

199

Breakdown of Closed Cases by Geographic Origin of Child

Region

Number

Percentage

Jenin

22

12.55%

Nablus

56

32.0%

Tulkarem/Qalqilya

22

12.55%

Total North West Bank

100

57.1%

Ramallah

18

10.3%

Jerusalem and surrounding villages

12

6.9%

Total Central West Bank

30

17.2%

Bethlehem

9

5.1%

Hebron

36

20.6%

Total South West Bank

45

25.7%

Total

175

100%

Breakdown of Closed Cases by Age

Age Group

Number

Percentage

12 to 14 years

24

13.7%

15 to 16 years

56

32.0%

17 years

95

54.3%

Total

175

100%

Charges

Indictments in the Israeli Military Court are drafted following the obtaining of a confession or a corroborative confession and are not based on evidence gathered during a forensic investigation of an offence. This illustrates how confessional evidence is legitimatized by the Court. Furthermore, an indictment is not based on the elements of an offence or specific factual details such as dates, times, and locations, but on details obtained from a child's confession, particularly issues of intent to kill or injure, without which, many activities undertaken by Palestinian children would not be offences.

The following is an example of an indictment and summary of the offence, for the offence of stone throwing which falls under the category of offences known as “Throwing an Object including a Rock” under Military Order 378:

Throwing an object at a person or property with the intent of harming the person or damaging the property, is an offence against Article 53(a) (2) of Military Order 378.

The accused is charged with throwing stones, an offence under Article 53(a)(2) of Military Order 378, Security Order for Judea and Samariah 1970.

In February 2007, or thereabouts, in the area of Khader Village or nearby, the accused threw stones towards a person or property in order to harm that person or damage the property.

During the time mentioned above, in the area known as Rachel's Tomb, or nearby, the accused threw a number of stones towards Israeli Border Police with the intention to harm those persons

Evidence: 4 Interrogation Affidavits of the Accused

2) Palestinian civilians, names withheld

Break Down of Closed Cases by Nature of Charge*

Name of Charge

Number

Percentage

Stone Throwing

36

26.1%

Molotov

17

12.3%

Attempt Murder

4

2.9%

Membership in Palestinian Political Organisation

7

5.1%

Throwing/Possessing Bomb

14

10.1%

Conspiracy To Suicide Bomb/Murder

37

26.8%

Shooting (But Not Killing)

6

4.3%

Helping Wanted Persons

4

2.9%

Possess Weapon

10

7.2%

Enter Israel Without Permit/Refused Entry Into Israel

3

2.3%

Total

138

100%

Case Study

Name: Tahani Bin Oudi
Age: 16 years old
Place of Residence: Nablus Region
Charge: Possession of Knife

Tahani Bin Oudi was on a school excursion the day before her arrest. She had taken a fruit knife with her on the excursion to cut her fruit. Her mother, the next day, had a medical appointment in Nablus and Tahani traveled to see her mother there. When she arrived at the checkpoint she was searched and the knife was found in her bag. In fear, she ran and was shot by the Israeli military personnel at the checkpoint. She was shot in her leg. An ambulance was called and was taken to hospital after which she was taken to Telmond Prison.

She was then taken to Court. The prosecutor opposed bail but she was granted bail for 6000NIS and had 72 hours to lodge the bail sum. Her family had difficulties obtaining the money.

She spent 9 days in prison before she was sentenced and released.

There were many court appearances and on 10 July 2007 she was sentenced to a fine of 2000NIS.

IDF personnel witnesses did not appear on two occasions when they had been ordered to appear at her trial.

DCI Lawyer, Adnan Al Rhabi appeared for Tahani.

This is in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention to which the State of Israel is a signatory

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