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Israel stands accused of child 'torture'

Imagine a child arrested and taken from the family home by heavily armed soldiers in the middle of the night. Bound with plastic ties and blindfolded, the child is transported to another country for interrogation.

Neither the child nor their parents are told the reason for arrest, which is frequently accompanied by both physical and verbal abuse. This is a daily experience suffered by Palestinian families on the West Bank at the hands of the Israeli army.

Since 2000, around 7,500 Palestinian children have been detained and prosecuted in the military court system, established as part of the illegal Zionist occupation of the West Bank. 

Children are questioned without a lawyer or family member present; they are not informed of their right to silence and they are frequently threatened and physically assaulted.

They are forced to sign forged confessions, in Hebrew – which they neither speak or write – and interrogators focus on getting them to name names of older siblings, family friends, even parents.

Children as young as 12 are brought before the military courts. Most are denied bail and most plead guilty. Some 99.74% of cases end in conviction and 98% of the children are given a custodial sentence.

Regular reports detailing this treatment are submitted to the UN Rapporteur on Torture, by children's rights organisation DCI and others. 

Their most recent report states that children "continue to be systematically ill-treated during their arrest, transfer and interrogation. This treatment consists of both physical and verbal abuse, as well as threats and intimidation. Further, the cumulative effect of the ill-treatment each child is subjected to, may in some cases, amount to torture".

More than 70% of the detained children are transferred to prisons and detention centres inside Israel, in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. As a result they get no family visits, because their parents can't get a permit to enter Israel. Palestinian children are not permitted to use the telephone or send and receive letters whilst in detention.

The soldiers act on frame-up reports made by the paramilitary settlers who roam the West Bank armed to the teeth with automatic weapons. In 67% of cases, the children report being ill-treated by soldiers or policemen whilst inside a settlement.

Here's testimony from Husam S aged 16:

They put me in a metal cage at the entrance to Huwwara interrogation centre. They made me stand against the wall and there were so many flies inside the cage. I tried to chase the flies off my body, but a soldier kept shouting at me and ordering me to face the wall. I kept standing there facing the wall for about an hour. About an hour later, the soldier said: “Come here motherfucker". He took me out of the cage and made me stand in the burning sun. "Take off all your clothes," he ordered me and I became scared of him. I took of all my clothes except my underwear. Then he ran a metal detector over my body and gave me big prison clothes and detained me in Room 2 with three adults.

And from A, whose name and age were concealed as he named an Israeli officer:
“Don't you want to confess?" the interrogator kept shouting. "I got nothing to confess to," I kept responding, and he kept kicking me on my bottom. He grabbed my head and started slamming it against the metal closet while saying: "You son of a whore, I'll bring your mother down here." He would take a break and then resume hitting and kicking me. He kept doing this for about two hours. Then I got tired. "I threw Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers," I finally said [...] After that he took me to another room and removed the blindfold. A man talked to me and introduced himself as Captain Dawoud.

The state of Israel sanctions systematic brutality against Palestinian children, not only in military courts and prisons but in breach of all their rights – to education, to health care, to a childhood free of fear. These are crimes against humanity but they go unpunished because the major powers like the US and Britain in effect allow them to happen because Israel is their client state.

Penny Cole
24 January 2012

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