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Committee: More than 1,000 Palestinian minors detained by Israel in 2016 so far

Sept. 24, 2016 7:47 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 12, 2016 12:18 P.M.)
(File)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- More than 1,000 Palestinian minors have been detained by Israeli forces since the beginning of the year, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs said on Saturday, in a reported increase from 2015.

The Committee said that at least 1,000 Palestinian minors between the ages of 11 and 18 had been detained by Israel since January, including around 70 children from occupied East Jerusalem who were placed under house arrest.

A lawyer for the Committee, Hiba Masalha, cited a number of cases in which Palestinian minors were abused and tortured while in detention.

One of the youths, 17-year-old Nidal from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, was detained in June and held for 20 days in the infamous Russian compound before being moved to the Megiddo prison. According to Masalha, Nidal reported that he was regularly and brutally beaten while at the Russian compound, as well as verbally abused.

He notably mentioned one instance when approximately 10 prison guards dragged him out of his cell into a room without security cameras and brutally beat him for an hour while he was handcuffed. One of the guards, Nidal said, took a trash can and placed it over Nidal’s head, as the group laughed and mocked him.

Ahmad, a 16-year-old also from Issawiya who was detained in April, was also taken to the Russian compound, where he was ordered to kneel with his head down for three hours. Before being interrogated, a police officer cut the zip tie used to handcuff Ahmad with a knife, injuring the youth in the process.

Ahmad said that the deep cut to his hand was left untreated while he was interrogated by five Israeli investigators for three hours, as they screamed at him and hit him a number of times, including on the head, claiming that he was being “annoying.”

Masalha also cited the case of 17-year-old Umran from the West Bank district of Tulkarem, who was detained in May while walking in the street. Umran was reportedly repeatedly beaten while he was detained.

Soldiers took him from one location to another throughout the afternoon and evening upon detaining him, even taking him to the Israeli separation wall and taking pictures of him holding his ID there while laughing. Umran was finally taken to an Israeli security facility in the morning before being transferred to an Israeli prison.

In August, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs announced that Israeli forces had detained 560 children from occupied East Jerusalem since the beginning of 2016.

According to the committee, Israeli forces imprisoned 30 teenage Palestinians over the month of August, some as young as 13, and collected 65,000 shekels ($17,270) from their families as fines, with the majority of the detainees saying they were beaten and tortured during their detention, interrogation, and transported from one detention center to another.

Israeli forces have conducted a crackdown on Palestinian children in East Jerusalem in recent months, as Palestinian communities in the occupied city have begun to feel the impact of Israeli legislation passed between 2014 and 2015 increasing penalties for rock throwing, which allows for stone throwers to receive a 20-year prison sentence where intent to harm could be proven, and up to 10 years where it could not.

Rights group Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCIP) cited in a report in July a number of cases of Palestinian minors being handed prison sentences for periods ranging between 12 to 39 months, with up to three years’ probation.

The widespread arrests put a spotlight on the well documented abuse of Palestinians children by Israeli forces and the harsh interrogation practices used to force their confessions, which has long been the target of criticism by the international community.

Despite “on paper” having more rights than Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank who are subject to a draconian military detention system, in practice, Jerusalem minors “do not enjoy their enshrined rights” under the Israeli civilian court system, according to DCIP.

Out of 65 cases documented by DCIP in 2015, "more than a third of Jerusalem youth were arrested at night (38.5 percent), the vast majority (87.7 percent) were restrained during arrest, and only a slim minority of children (10.8 percent) had a parent or lawyer present during interrogation."

Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP, was quoted in the report as saying: “The changes in the penal code and policy guidelines since 2014 are discriminatory and target Palestinians, specifically youth. Israel is a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child and we call on them to uphold their responsibilities.”

Interrogations of Palestinian children can last up to 90 days according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, during which in addition to being beaten and threatened, cases of sexual assault and placement in solitary confinement to elicit confessions are also often reported, while confession documents they are forced to sign are in Hebrew -- a language most Palestinian children do not speak.

According to Addameer, as of August, 7,000 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, 340 of whom were minors.

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