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Human Rights Watch: Israeli forces abusing detained Palestinian children

April 11, 2016 2:22 P.M. (Updated: April 12, 2016 9:28 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian children detained in the occupied Palestinian territory are being abused by Israeli forces and “routinely” interrogated without the presence of their parents, according to a report released Monday by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The report comes as the number of Palestinian children arrested by Israel more than doubled since October 2015. As of February, there were 406 Palestinian children being held in Israeli military prisons, 108 of them under the age of 16, according to documentation by prisoners’ rights group Addameer.

Israeli forces have used unnecessary force in the arrest and detention of children, beaten them, and held them in unsafe conditions, according to video footage, lawyer reports, and interviews conducted by HRW with children who have been detained.

“Palestinian children are treated in ways that would terrify and traumatize an adult,” said Sari Bashi, Israel and Palestine country director for HRW. “Screams, threats, and beatings are no way for the police to treat a child or to get accurate information from them.”

International and domestic Israeli laws that provide special protections for detained children -- stating that the detention of children can be used only as a last resort and that the best interests of the child be prioritized -- are “routinely” ignored by Israeli forces, HRW affirmed.

Israeli police and military denied the contents of documentation released by HRW in July detailing Israeli forces choking, beating, and throwing stun grenades at Palestinian children.

HRW’s new report detailed three new cases of abuse against Palestinians children by Israeli forces which have occurred since a wave of violence spread across the occupied Palestinian territory in October.

The children aged 14, 15, and 16 -- corroborated by witnesses to the abuse, lawyers, and security camera footage -- told HRW that Israeli police hit and kicked them while in custody, and made them spend hours outside in the cold in the early morning and at night while handcuffed to chairs.

Security footage of 15-year-old Fayez's arrest, “appears to show at least seven police officers in riot gear participating in the arrest, including slapping and dragging the 53-kilogram boy and placing him in a chokehold. ‘It was a terrifying night,’ Fayez told Human Rights Watch. The boy’s father arrived during the arrest and said a police officer punched him in the face when he asked what was happening.”

According to children’s rights group, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP), three out of four Palestinian children experience physical violence during arrest, transfer, or interrogation by Israeli forces.

DCIP reported in March that 41 Palestinian children have been killed in the occupied Palestinian territory since October. All were killed as a “direct result of intensified violence,” DCIP said in a statement, and all but one were killed by Israeli military forces.

The number includes 31 Palestinians under the age of 18 who allegedly carried out knife or gun attacks, as well as others shot dead during clashes.

Release of HRW's report comes as Israeli forces continue to be shielded by a long-standing Israeli policy of immunity for officers and soldiers accused of abuse and murder of Palestinians and Palestinian children.

The Israeli army closed on Sunday an investigation into the killing of a Palestinian teenager last summer by a senior Israeli commander, in a decision Israeli rights group B’Tselem has termed “an integral part” of the Israeli army’s “whitewash mechanism” of its own crimes.
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