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Report: Palestinian girls seized in June still held without charges

Oct. 8, 2008 5:06 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 8, 2008 5:06 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - A human rights organization appealed to the public on Wednesday to take action against Israel's administrative detention of two Palestinian schoolgirls being held in a women's prison since June.

The Addameer Foundation said Israeli officials again requested an administrative detention order for Salwa Salah and Sara Siureh, two 16-year-old girls seized from their homes on 5 June. Their first administrative detention was ordered on 12 June. From the date of their arrest until 21 July, neither of the girls was allowed contact with their families.

Salah was originally sentenced to four months, while Siureh received a five-month detention. A military court confirmed the orders on 18 June, though an appeals hearing reduced Siureh's sentence from five months to four.

Originally due for release on 4 October, officials issued the second order on 5 October, one day after they were legally free to go. The next day, an Israeli judicial rule upheld the new detention order, extending it to 3 January 2009.

Judge Eyal Noon claimed the girls are "dangerous," though the military prosecutor has declined to charge the girls with any crime nor accuse the two of any activities whatsoever.

Regardless, the girls were taken to Addamoun Prison in Israel and are being held with other adult female detainees. They have now spent more than 4 months in Israeli prisons, being held without charge or trial. Under Israeli law, administrative detention orders can be renewed indefinitely.

The Addameer Foundation said it was "deeply concerned" about Salwa and Sara, particularly as their detention "is contrary to international human rights standards."

"Neither Salwa nor Sara have been informed of any charges against them, nor the reason for their arrest and detention, thereby violating fundamental due process and rendering their detention illegal and arbitrary under international law," the foundation said in a letter.

Representatives added that "the twin principles of proportionality and the duty on a state to take into consideration the child's well being underline much of the detail found in international law concerning the aims, restrictions and prohibitions on the sentencing of children."

The foundation also cited the United Nations (UN)'s Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice code, which requires that actions taken toward juvenile offenders must "always be in proportion to the circumstances of both the offenders and the offence."

"Clearly this is not the case for these two young girls. The Court did not abide by these legal standards laid out for all detained minors," the foundation said.

The administrative detention is the first time either girl had been to prison. Both girls reported abusive behavior by Israeli guards, on top of an "extensive use of force" during their arrests. Both claim that officers forcibly shoved them and shouted at them during their original transfers to Al-Ramle Prison.

Additionally, Addameer claimed the girls had been subjected to "several violations of their human rights," particularly a "humiliating" full-body search, during which Israeli guards forced the girls "to strip totally naked" before their hair, mouths and bodies were invasively searched.

There are currently about 750 Palestinians in administrative detention. Among these are 13 Palestinians under the age of 18 years old.
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