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Rights Expert: Harsh interrogation of 13-year-old Palestinian boy ‘may amount to torture’

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A controversial video was leaked to Palestinian media on November 8th, revealing an aggressive Israeli security interrogation of 13-year old Ahmad Manasra, who was indicted on October 30th by Israel’s Jerusalem District Court for attempting to murder two Israelis near the Pisgat Zeev settlement in East Jerusalem.

The 10-minute video depicts an Israeli interrogator verbally abusing and shouting curses at the visibly distressed boy, rigorously questioning his motives and accusing him of murder.  The video then appears to show the young teen confessing to the crime under considerable duress.

Since the footage has gone viral there has been a strong public outrage, with rights-based groups condemning what appears to be a violation of the rights afforded to the treatment of minors in custody.

Brad Parker, attorney and international advocacy officer at Defence for Children – Palestine, spoke to Mondoweiss about the legal implications of the film. “The circumstances depicted in the video present a situation that may amount to torture” he explained. “When determining if certain acts constitute torture, the child’s age must be taken into account. Israeli interrogators are seen relying on verbal abuse, intimidation and threats to apparently inflict mental suffering for the purpose of obtaining a confession.”

Parker stated that the video provides evidence of a violation of international juvenile standards as dictated by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Israel signed in 1991. According to Parker, “[the Convention] prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This prohibition is absolute, yet, ill treatment and torture of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli military and police is widespread and systematic.”

Alongside these fundamental rights which appear to have been neglected, international law states that a child cannot be interrogated without the presence of his parents or guardian. Tareq Barghouth, one of Manasra’s lawyers, claims that the boy has not been allowed contact with his family since the attack, and has been subjected to psychological abuse from the security forces. “They threatened that they will kill him, demolish his house, and imprison him,” Barghouth said. “They spit on him. One of the officials opened his Skype with his girlfriend, and she also began swearing at him over Skype.”

Another contentious aspect of Manasra’s treatment since arrest was the decision by the Israeli government to publicly release his photograph. The Israeli NGO Physicians for Human Rights denounced the move as inherently political saying, “the fact that it is a photo of a minor in custody who was photographed without his parents’ permission” is a violation of juvenile law and privacy laws… Even more disturbing, is that reportedly the instructions [to publish the photo] came directly from the office of the Health Minister [Yaakov Litzman] and that the picture itself was distributed by the Prime Minister’s Office.”

“What is happening to me?”

In the video of the interrogation, an officer sits behind a desk shouting at the boy in Arabic, “Why did you stab him? Why did you stab him?”

An anguished Manasra pleads and repeatedly hits his head with his hands, saying that he cannot remember and begs with the interrogator to believe him, saying “I don’t remember, not one thing. For God’s sake believe me! I woke up the next day at four. There was a blow to my head. I don’t remember! What is happening to me?”

Between the barrage of shouting and curses, Manasra can be heard saying “maybe I am going crazy”, and asks the officer to “take me to the doctor to check me”, all the while screaming and hitting his face with his hands.

The officer continuously yells “liar!”, and tells Manasra to “shut up”, saying that he is accused of killing “two Jews” and that he supported “the enemy in time of war”.  The boy is clearly confused by the statement, and asks “what war? What do I have to do with a war”?

The interrogator proceeds to violently yell at Manasra, who eventually says, “everything you say is true, according to the video it is true. But I don’t remember… I only believe that it happened when I saw the footage.”

Despite admitting to the crime, Parker told Mondoweiss that the context of coercion negates the validity of the confession. “International law demands that any statement made as a result of torture or ill-treatment must be excluded as evidence in any proceeding” he explained; “ any confession or incriminating statements made by Ahmad as a result of torture must not be used as evidence against him.”

Before the release of the interrogation footage the case made headlines when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas mistakenly stated that Israeli security forces had executed Ahmad Manasra after the stabbing attack.  During the incident, which occurred on October 12th, two Israel’s aged 13 and 21 were seriously injured and Manasra’s 15-year old cousin, Hassan, was shot dead by Israeli forces. A car knocked Mansara down as he tried to flee the scene.

A disturbing film shot by a passer by of the immediate aftermath of the attack also went viral, showing Mansara’s small body splayed on the sidewalk in a pool of blood, as onlookers yell at him “Die, son of a b***h die!”

According to local news source Ma’an, the court rejected the family’s pleas that Manasra be placed under house arrest. Instead, he will be detained in a closed facility in Galilee until his prosecution, with his next court date set for December 6th.

Under current Israeli legislation, Manasra cannot serve a prison sentence until he turns 14 in January, after which he could face years of incarceration. However this particular case has prompted the Israeli Justice Ministry to draft a bill a few days ago, in which children as young as 12 could be given prison sentences if convicted of manslaughter, murder or attempted murder. The bill will apply to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, despite the fact they are not citizens of the state of Israel.

Sadly, it doesn’t seem as if Manasra will be the last of such cases involving Palestinian minors. 12-year old Ali Ihab Hassab Ali was shot three times after stabbing an Israeli guard in Jerusalem yesterday, and is currently being held under Israeli police custody in Hadassah hospital.

Children detained by the Israeli military

Ahmad Manasra being led by Israeli authorities in a detention facility (Source: Twitter)

Ahmad Manasra being led by Israeli authorities in a detention facility (Source: Twitter)

Arresting and detaining Palestinian children without a trial in the Israeli military courts is a common method employed by Israeli forces in an attempt to deter involvement in resistance or violence. According to the human rights association Addameer, approximately 700 Palestinian children under the age of 18 are arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli army every year. Indeed, the Israeli military raided a home in Hebron last month, seeking to arrest a Palestinian boy accused of throwing stones only to discover he was 3-years old.

In a report released in July 2015, Human Rights Watch stated that “Israeli security forces have used unnecessary force to arrest or detain Palestinian children as young as 11”, including choking them, throwing stun grenades at them, beating them in custody and interrogating them without the presence of parents or lawyers.

When speaking of Israel’s systematic abuse of children, Parker stated that “ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention is widespread with around 75 percent of kids arrested from the West Bank suffering some form of physical violence during arrest, transfer or interrogation. Despite repeated calls to end ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children in Israeli detention, Israel has persistently failed to implement practical changes to stop violence against child detainees.”

To date 77 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of last month, 13 of whom are  children killed by Israeli forces in what are being condemned by rights groups such as Amnesty International as “unlawful” killings which resemble “extra judicial execution”. The increased use of extreme methods harnessed by the Israeli military in reaction to the current spate of violence raises grave concerns over how Palestinian minors are treated, under a judicial apparatus notorious for the systematic ill-treatment of children.

Megan Hanna

Megan Hanna is an independent freelance journalist and photographer, based in the occupied Palestinian territories. You can follow Megan on twitter via @Megan_Hanna_.

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21 Responses

  1. a blah chick on November 13, 2015, 3:38 pm

    Contrast the treatment of this child with the treatment of the two Jewish teens who helped burn Abu Khdeir to death. Neither their faces or names were released to the press nor were viral videos of their “interrogations” made public.

    I’m sure the hasbarists will be along to explain why.

  2. Kris on November 13, 2015, 4:13 pm

    Palestinian “violence” is Israel’s favorite pretext for stealing more and more Palestinian land and resources, and Israeli Jews do all they can to ensure that there will be Palestinian “violence” to react to. Israel appears to be stepping up the pace of the slow-motion holocaust they have been carrying out against the Palestinians since 1948.

    Israel’s goal is obviously the elimination of the Palestinians. Otherwise, the Israeli Jews would behave differently. A good case in point is the way Israel prevents Palestinians from traveling to the universities that have granted them scholarships, most recent example, here:

    Obviously, if Palestinian students were free to fulfil their dreams of becoming doctors, teachers, engineers, lawyers, etc., they and their families would be less likely to succumb to the despair and violence that Israeli Jews work so tirelessly to elicit.

    For Israel, it is much better to have these young people being gunned down in “knife attacks,” or for throwing stones, than to be preparing for lives full of hope.

  3. Kay24 on November 13, 2015, 5:44 pm

    They are becoming more and more like nazis. This is sadist behavior at it’s worst, because it involves a little kid. What the hell is wrong with these zionists, they are screwed up and have a viciousness that cannot be explained. They keep resorting to this cruel behavior BECAUSE THE US LETS THEM.

    • RockyMissouri on November 14, 2015, 1:29 pm

      You can see the pain in his face.. And the horror and cruelty of those goons escorting him.

      • BrianJ on June 17, 2019, 11:17 pm

        Manasra was tried in an Israeli civilian court and sentenced to 12 years in prison for two attempted murders.

      • echinococcus on June 18, 2019, 12:11 am

        “was tried in an Israeli civilian court”

        Exactly! “Israeli”, eh?

      • MHughes976 on June 18, 2019, 7:18 am

        The Times of Israel of August 10, 2017, reports that the sentence was reduced by the Supreme Court from 12 to 9.5 years because of extreme youth, secondariness to his cousin in the original incident, rehabilitation (partly expressed through an apology to the young person, of about his own age, whom he had wounded) while in prison and danger, presumably to mental health, from a long prison term. Mind you, 9.5 years is quite a long time. He remains liable to pay compensation.

  4. Elisabeth on November 13, 2015, 6:03 pm

    Did you notice how one of them was lauging? He apparently enjoys bullying a litrtle kid, all alone without anyone to comfort or protect him.

    There is no stabbing to be seen on that footage at all, if it is the same stuff the israeli police posted .

  5. kalithea on November 13, 2015, 7:55 pm

    I commented on this incident before and I can’t stomach watching this again; this is a child prisoner of the occupation. This is child abuse and he’s suffered enough for his young age. Damned Zionism!

  6. annie on November 13, 2015, 10:12 pm

    this is one way they get their 99.9 (or whatever 99 point something it is) conviction rate for palestinian children. sadists.

    • CigarGod on November 13, 2015, 11:09 pm

      Ot, but over on presstv, they report an Irish MP was strip searched by idf and denied embassy contact.

      • RockyMissouri on November 14, 2015, 1:32 pm

        Netanyahu and his unholy bastards wreak havoc!! They will rot in hell.

  7. Marnie on November 14, 2015, 1:16 am

    “Since the footage has gone viral there has been a strong public outrage, with rights-based groups condemning what appears to be a violation of the rights afforded to the treatment of minors in custody.”

    Strong public outrage, blah, blah, blah. Nothing but lip service and the zionists know it.

    That screaming interrogator is doing a mighty fine impression of Judge Roland Freisler.

    • a blah chick on November 14, 2015, 7:30 am

      “That screaming interrogator is doing a mighty fine impression of Judge Roland Freisler.”

      Wow, I see I was not the only one to notice the similarities. Great minds think alike. : )

      • RockyMissouri on November 14, 2015, 1:34 pm

        You & Marnie ????????✌????️????????

    • RockyMissouri on November 14, 2015, 1:33 pm

      You guys are spot-on!!

  8. Boo on November 14, 2015, 10:23 am

    That interrogator sounds demented, as crazy as a bedbug.

  9. Kathleen on November 15, 2015, 7:57 pm

    What happened to the 12 and 21 year old Israeli’s that were stabbed? Any information about any kind of relationship that Mansara and his cousin had with the other two before the stabbing. What are their conditions?

    That first scene were Mansara is lying in a pool of blood with his right leg bent up where it should not be is horrifying.

    The interrogator is so full of hatred and venom you can feel it oozing through the screen. Hopefully this man will feel the full weight of the law. However we know if it is Israel who has legal oversight…will not happen.


  10. Ossinev on June 18, 2019, 9:57 am

    “That interrogator sounds demented, as crazy as a bedbug”
    “The interrogator is so full of hatred and venom you can feel it oozing through the screen”

    Agreed. The true flower of moral Zionism. Loved how he projects his loathsome evil on to a defenceless child (so so brave and so so moral lighting up nations etc puke )and all the time wearing his cherished upside down cloth saucer held in stylish place by his glasses.

    Truly disgusting people. Truly disgusting “nation”. The sooner it and they are washed away into the sewer of history the better for mankind.

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