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Rights group counts steep increase in arrest of minors

Dec. 13, 2010 7:50 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 14, 2010 3:26 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- An investigation by an Israeli rights group found a sharp increase in number of minors arrested in Silwan, a neighborhood of East Jerusalem, a report released Monday said.

B'Tselem collected police reports and testimony from November 2009 to October 2010 and found that during the 12-month period, at least 81 minors from Silwan were arrested or detained for questioning. The vast majority were detained on suspicion of stone throwing during clashes between Palestinians and security forces in the neighborhood.

"Some of the minors were arrested several times," the organization found.

The arrests, the report said, occurred in violation of the Youth Law, noting that the young people were detained on suspicion of stone throwing.

More than one third of those detained (32 of 88) were taken by Israeli police following the killing of Silwan resident Samer Sarhan by an Israeli settler guard on 22 September, marking what researchers said was an alarming escalation.

"The Jerusalem Police systematically violate the law, primarily the Youth Law, which grants minors special rights in criminal matters and prohibits, as a rule, interrogation of minors at night," B'Tselem said.

Researchers cataloged dozens of arrests carried out by armed border policemen overnight, where children and young adults were taken from their beds - in some cases using violence - and taken immediately for interrogation often without access to a parent or guardian.

Stone throwing by minors, the report notes, "is widespread and has intensified over the past year," adding that police have the authority to take criminal charges against those suspected of the act. Stone throwing, researchers added, "does not justify systematic breach of the law."

Officials from the rights organization called on Israeli police to immediately halt the arrest of minors at night, ensure that their parents are present and "emphasize rehabilitation of the minors, and reduce the harm caused to them."

In November, 61 social workers, medical and education professionals signed a letter accusing Israeli police of "flagrant violations" of the law in their treatment of minors.

The letter, sent to police officials, said "We are writing ... to express our deep concerns about the physical and emotional welfare and proper development of children and young people in east Jerusalem in the light of police behavior during the investigation and arrest of minors in this area."
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