When I first read Joseph Dana’s article of last year, “Israeli army targets and arrests children in order to repress Palestinian dissent in the West Bank,” it sent chills up my spine, and I was sure that someday, somehow this story would get out onto the world stage. Today we’re one step closer.
The Independent’s Terri Judd is reporting that the UK is ready to take on Israel over fate of children clapped in irons:
The Foreign Office revealed last night that it would be challenging the Israelis over their treatment of Palestinian children after a report by a delegation of senior British lawyers revealed unconscionable practices, such as hooding and the use of leg irons.
In the first investigation of its kind, a team of nine senior legal figures examined how Palestinians as young as 12 were treated when arrested. Their shocking report Children in Military Custody details claims that youngsters are dragged from their beds in the middle of the night, have their wrists bound behind their backs, and are blindfolded and made to kneel or lie face down in military vehicles.
Children from the West Bank are held in conditions that could amount to torture, such as solitary confinement, with little or no access to their parents. They can be forced to stay awake before being verbally as well as physically abused and coerced into signing confessions they cannot read.
The team – led by Sir Stephen Sedley, a former Court of Appeal judge – heard that “every Palestinian child is treated like a potential terrorist”. In a damning conclusion, the report points out repeated breaches of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
“We were sitting in court and saw a section of a preliminary hearing when a very young looking child, a boy, was brought in wearing a brown uniform with leg irons on. We were shocked by that. This was a situation where we had been invited into the military courts for briefings from senior judges,” explained one of the report’s authors, human rights barrister Greg Davies. “To hold children routinely and for substantial periods in solitary confinement would, if it occurred, be capable of amounting to torture,” the report said. Last night the Foreign Office, which backed the report, said it would be taking up the claims with the Israeli authorities
Judd’s article chronicles a delegation of senior British lawyers and their report, Children in Military Custody. But one thing it does not do is provide context for a lot of these arrests. It doesn’t mention they take place in villages across the West Bank involved in non-violent struggle and in areas where village lands are targeted for annexation to nearby settlements and the settlers are pushing Palestinians off their lands.
People cherish their children. That is one thing all societies share in common. Targeting the children of a village so as to stop residents from protesting the confiscation of their village land or for the theft of resources or expansion of settlements is, as the Independent says, unconscionable– and it is happening right before our eyes in villages all across the West Bank including Bil’in, Nabi Saleh, Beit Ommar, Beit Sahour, the Jordan Valley as well as in East Jerusalem.
“They come for our woman and our children,” Bassem Tamimi, the leader of the Popular Committee of Nabi Saleh recently told me, “they [the Israeli army] know that woman are half our population and half our strength and so they target them along with the children.” Tamimi, a gentle man with a warm smile spoke to me about the repression of his village as we sat in his home overlooking the settlement of Halamish. “They know where to apply pressure on our resistance. It has become really difficult since the last wave of arrests.”
Israel is devoting maximum effort to the repression of Nabi Saleh’s determination to demonstrate against the Occupation. The specific method of repression has been in development for the past eight years and is not only designed to break the demonstrations but to leave permanent psychological scars on the next generation of Nabi Saleh villagers. In short, children are used to implicate the leaders of the Popular Committee for incitement in demonstrations, providing evidence for their long term incarceration. In the last month, six children have been arrested or detained in Nabi Saleh by the army.
Often forces enter homes in the middle of the night and wake the children, document them, photograph them, demand their I.D’s, or arrest the children. Sometimes children are arrested and held as ransom until a wanted relative turns himself in.
Tamimi was taken by soldiers during a Friday demonstration to the neighboring Jewish only settlement of Halamish. He was handcuffed behind his back and left in the pouring rain for hours before being questioned about the demonstrations, their leadership and strategy. Villagers believe that he was arrested last night in order to extract more information about the demonstrations in Nabi Saleh. This is a part of a broader strategy of psychological repression of the village and a harsh form of collective punishment. Ironically, the army spokesperson unit tweeted this morning that a ‘wanted suspect’ had been caught in the West Bank and taken for questioning. Nothing was said that the ‘suspect’ was a fourteen year old child.
The embattled village of Nabi Saleh saw a resumption of night raids last night. The house of imprisoned popular committee leader Bassem Tamimi was raided by Israeli soldiers at 02:00 this morning…
Protest in Beit Ommar Land Day 2012 Photo:Hazem Bader
The Palestine Solidarity Project (PSP) has been documenting the crackdown on the non violent resistance movement in Beit Ommar village since 2006. Nearby settlements have been seizing Beit Ommar’s lands, and the village has sought to protest.
This photo was taken on March 31st of this year, Land Day. I recognized the boy’s face while reading PSP’s report: 15-year-old Mohamad (Hamouda) Abu Hashem released from prison. PSP informs me that the two boys in these pictures are brothers.
Mohamad (Hamouda)Abu Hashem
“They slapped him and demanded to know why he and his family, many of whom are involved in the resistance movement, participated in the local Beit Ommar protests. They showed Hamouda pictures of other Palestinians and demanded that he identify and give information on them, and continued to question him for two more hours when he replied that he didn’t know them. ”
Hamouda was released from prison just two days ago, looking traumatized and exhausted after two months of incarceration.
Last year we reported the murder of 17-year-old Yousef Fakhri Ikhlayl, active in Beit Ommar’s non violent resistance:
Around 100 settlers from Bat Ayn settlement descended upon the Palestinian villages of Saffa and nearby Beit Ommar in the southern West Bank, shooting 17-year-old Yousef Fakhri Ikhlayl (left) in his head, leaving him critically injured. Doctors have announced that Yousef is currently brain-dead in a Hebron hospital…..Yousef Fahkri Ikhlayl is from the village of Beit Ommar and has worked on initiatives with the Palestine Solidarity Project, an anti-occupation organization in Beit Ommar. In the summer of 2010, Yousef attended the Center for Freedom and Justice’s Freedom Flotilla Summer Camp where he engaged in educational projects, community service, and unarmed demonstrations against the Israeli occupation.
Israeli soldiers, police, and settlers have regularly launched attacks against Beit Ommar’s villagers, at times when they are cultivating their lands. Several prominent activists from the village have been arrested recently. (Here’s video).
The Alternative Information Center reports that many of the arrested have been children:
The last few months, particularly June, have seen an alarming rise in arrests of Beit Ummar residents and activists. Particularly shocking has been the high number of children arrested, with many reporting their experience of violence and abuse whilst in detention. The arrest of four prominent Beit Ommar activists within the past few weeks, including three popular committee members, is a sign of the Israeli Occupation Forces’ continuing efforts to suppress non-violent popular resistance in the area.
Here is Defense for Children International’s urgent appeal about this practice, sent out earlier this month.
There is a pattern here; and it’s not about unruly kids throwing rocks. It’s about Israel targeting children so as to squelch nonviolent resistance. For as the government has admitted, it doesn’t do Gandhi very well.
Are there any rules here? Well, yes. Here are recommendations on the treatment of children from the UK delegation’s report Children in Military Custody:
10. On arrival at a place of detention, children should be immediately reminded of their right to silence. Their right to consult a lawyer prior to interrogation (in accordance with Military Order 1676) should be respected.
11. Children should have a parent or guardian present prior to and during their interrogation.
12. Children should have access to a full medical examination both prior to and after interrogation. The assessment should document any complaints and findings and consider both the psychological and physical state of the child. The child’s lawyer should have access to the assessment.
13. Interrogations should be conducted during daytime (in accordance with Israeli youth law), after an appropriate period of rest and refreshment, and only by specially trained youth interviewers.
14. Interrogations should be audio-visually recorded and the tapes should be made available to the child’s lawyer.
15. Children should not be required to sign confessions and statements written in a language other than their own.
16. The prohibition on violent, threatening or coercive conduct towards children should be strictly observed throughout all stages of interrogation and detention.
22. Military prosecutors should not base prosecutions of children solely on confession evidence without first adopting a system of the kind set out in these recommendations, and should fully assess the conditions under which any confession was obtained.
23. Allegations or evidence from other children should not be relied upon if obtained in breach of these recommendations.
24. Any confession written in any language other than the child’s own should not be accepted as evidence.
Resources documenting these abuses continue to grow. They include B’tselem’s “No Minor Matter” and the Defense for Children International (DCI) collection of sworn testimonies from children. DCI just recently submitted a report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in advance of its review of Israel’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2013.
The British media are paying attention. Here is the UK’s Channel 4 covering the Independent’s report on Children in Military Custody: