26 Jun 2012

Israel ‘breaches rights of Palestinian children’

A report by British lawyers who visited Israel and the West Bank accuses Israel’s security forces of regularly breaching the UN convention on children’s rights.

Today’s report says that hundreds of Palestinian children are arrested every year and often at night.

In one incident from 2010, four teenagers were arrested for throwing stones, the youngest just 13.

Though Israel says violence and threats towards children are forbidden, many child suspects say they have been blindfolded, physically and verbally abused, and forced to sign statements in Hebrew which they cannot understand.

Stone throwing is a daily hazard of Israel’s occupation. With under-18s subjected to Israeli military law.

The report found that teenagers are often not granted access to a lawyer till after questioning.

Children can be detained without charge for up to 188 days. And prison sentences for throwing stones can range from 2 weeks to 10 months

‘Forced to confess’

Wissam Tamimi is 16 and was arrested for stone throwing. He says he was forced to confess in exchange for a shorter sentence of five months in jail.

He told Channel 4 News: “While I was in the jeep, they would beat me. I was held from six in the morning till one at night. At the end they took me to prison.

“When they took me from the car they tied my hands and covered my eyes, and they took me into a checkpoint.

“They grabbed my hands and tied them behind me… And covered my eyes. The cuffs were very tight.”

Five hours of questioning

The accompanying film includes rare footage of a 14-year-old interrogated by Israeli officers last year. The questioning lasts over five hours, and the child is clearly exhausted. At one point he starts sobbing. Neither his parents nor a lawyer is in the room.

He was eventually detained for two months for throwing stones and then released to house arrest.

Today’s report concludes that Israel’s treatment of child prisoners breaches both the Geneva conventions and the UN convention on the rights of a child.

The human rights organisation B’tselem took footage of the Israeli army on its night rounds in Nabi Saleh. First they wake the children. Then they photograph them for their records.

Israel says detained children are told of their right to silence and to a lawyer. But today’s report says the fear that every Palestinian child could become a terrorist has led to a spiral of injustice which it says only Israel can reverse.

In a statement, an Israeli embassy spokesman said: “Under 18-year-olds are frequently involved in lethal acts, ranging from the hurling of boulders at civilians’ cars, to murder. With the Palestinian authority unable, or unwilling to meet its obligation to investigate and prosecute these ofences, Israel has no choice but to do so itself.”

The spokesperson said it would study the report’s findings closely.