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The Current Status of Palestinian Child Detainees in Israeli Jails (english version)

Dauod Deek*
Fonte: ANBAMED, notizie dal Mediterraneo - 23 agosto 2003

Key Figures

* At least 2000 children has been detained since the beginning of the second Intifada.
* 5% of total Palestinian detainees and prisoners are children under age 18.
* 8% of child detainees are held without trial and without charges.
* 215 children are pending trial.
* 44% of child detainees age 16-17 years.
* 50% of child detainees come from areas with highly visible Israeli military presence.
* 80% of detained children were subjected to torture.
* 11% of detained children suffer psycho-physical problems.

Background

Since the 1967 occupation, the Israeli Occupation Authorities used the Israeli legal instruments in a manner, which beaches the International norms and regulations. The Israeli Authorities always justify its illegal procedures against Palestinians through enacting military orders, which regulate the detention process in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

Arrest and detention by Israeli occupation services in OPT are governed by a series of military orders which, for years, have given the Palestinians rights which are inferior to the rights of Israeli citizens and breach international standards for arrest and detention.

International human rights instruments lay down a series of guarantees to people who are arrested or detained. These guarantees must be applied to all without discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, language, religion, political opinion, social origins, birth or other status.

These guarantees include among others: the right not to be arbitrary arrested; the right to be informed of the reason of arrest; the right of access to lawyers; the right to inform or have informed their families of their arrest and place of detention; the right to be brought promptly before a judge; the right to challenge the lawfulness of detention; the right to have access to the outside world; and the right to be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human being.

Few Palestinian living in the OPT who have been arrested or detained by Israeli occupation authorities enjoy these rights. Palestinians arrested by Israeli security services are under a system of military justice.

Since 1970, the arrest and detention of Palestinians has been governed by the Military Order 378, which has been frequently amended. Palestinians may be arrested without warrant and without 'reasonable suspicion' that a person has committed any criminal offence. Those arrested could be held for up to 18 days without judicial review; in 1994 the period without access to a judge was reduced to 11 days, and in 1997 it was reduced to 8 days.

On 5 April 2002 a new military order, Military Order 1500 was introduced. This order, effective retroactively from 29 March 2002, states that 'because of the unusual security situation present today in the area, ……an IDF officer of the rank of at least Captain or a police officer of equivalent rank may order in writing the holding of a detainee in detention, for a period of not more than 18 days'. Under article 3d,'…a detainee will not meet an attorney during the period of detention'.

Three additional military orders(Military Orders 1501,1502,1503) were issued during the following month; all made possible further extensions to the period without access to a lawyer.

However, when petitions were brought by lawyers for access or bail to clients held under Military Order 1500, the military commander has imposed an administrative detention order on the detainee. This has allowed the lawyer access to the detainee, but has meant that the detainee is held under a system which allows the evidence against him to be withheld, making challenges difficult.

Arrest of Children under Age 18

Since the beginning of the second Intifada, Israeli authorities have detained at least 2,000 children. As of 23 August 2003, 346 Palestinian children, aging 14-18, are currently detained in Israeli prisons and detention centers mainly within Israel proper.

The conditions in which the Palestinian children are held are below the minimum standards laid down by the UN (CRC and Beijing rules) and the Fourth Geneva Convention. The custody conditions of children have been deteriorating at an alarming scale, to the extent that the lives of the children are threatened.

The Palestinian child detainees are tried before and sentenced by Israeli military courts, although the Palestinian Authority has a juvenile justice system that can deal with children in conflict with the law. The Israeli military courts implement military orders and not juvenile-related legislation. Unlike Palestinian child detainees, Israeli children who are in conflict with the law are dealt with through the Israeli juvenile justice system.

It's worth mentioning here that Israel is party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Racial Military Orders
The Israeli occupation authorities issued military orders to govern the arrest and detention of Palestinian children. Military Order 132 of 1999, allows the arrest of children aging 12-14. This explains the rapid increase of child detention after the year 1998. For instance, the number of child detainees in 1998 reached 89, in 1999 it reached 202, while in 2000 it reached 330.

However, according to the Israeli military orders, Palestinian children who have reached the age of 16 are considered adults, contravening the internationally accepted definition of a child as anyone below the age of 18. The Israeli occupation authorities are discriminating against Palestinian children on the basis of race and religion.

Current Status of Child Detainees

Since the second Intifada of September 2000, the Israeli occupation authorities have arrested more than 2,000 Palestinian children. As of 23 August 2003, 346 there are still 346 children aging 14-18, are currently detained in Israeli prisons and detention centers. Among those, 31 children are held without charges and without trials.

Around 215 children are pending trial; some have been waiting since early March 2003. This breaches article 14 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, and article 40 of the Child Rights Convention. The remaining 131 children are tried before and sentenced by military courts, which implement military orders and not juvenile-related legislation.

Torture against children

The Palestinian child detainees are subjected to different firms of torture and cruel treatment. According to1998 figures of the Israeli Human Rights Information Center 'btselem', the Israeli General Security Service interrogate 1000-1500 Palestinians every year. 85% of those are subjected to torture. On the other hand, the Defense Children International/Palestine section, reported that 80% of Palestinian children who were arrested, were subjected to torture.

The Palestinian child detainees are subjected to various forms of inhuman treatment including beatings, sleep and food deprivation, position abuse (Shabeh), threatening language (including threats of death, sexual assault, and/or threats on his/her life or that of family members) and isolation-while undergoing interrogation by Israeli General Security Services, the Military Intelligence, or the Police. During interrogation the child detainee is not permitted to contact a lawyer or a relative. Lawyers are denied access during this period, and it is in fact very difficult to find out where a child is being held.

The use of torture and other inhuman and cruel treatment against child detainees by Israeli security services breaches international conventions and human rights instruments; mainly, article 37 of Child Rights Convention, articles 2 and 16 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. And breaches articles 7&10 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights; and articles 31,32,37 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. And breaches article 277 of the Israeli Penal Law.

The statistics of the Ministry of Detainees Affairs show that 11% of Palestinian children detained by Israel suffer from various physical injuries and psychological disturbances and require constant medical care and professional intervention. This is rarely provided, and the services provided are far from adequate. Noting that 44% of these children age 16-17 years, and the sharp increase in term of sentences issued by military courts depriving them from their liberty, the chances that they will go back to school are declining.

On the other hand, many Palestinian child detainees spend long periods in detention usually rating from 2-11 months. The average pretrial detention period for children who allegedly threw stones is 2-6 months, whereas for children accused of serious offences, such as throwing Molotov cocktails, this period typically reaches up to 12 months. However, at least 10 cases have been documented where children have been held pending trial for more than 24 months.

Noting the cases of child detention, the Ministry of Detainees emphasizes the fact that almost all of these arrests are conducted arbitrarily by the Israeli occupation Authorities. The majority of detained Palestinian children were taken from their homes in the middle of the night as a large number of Israeli soldiers surround the family house, forcibly enter the home, often destroying personal property and threatening family members, and remove the child from the home by force. Other children were arrested in the streets or at checkpoints.

Jails and Detention Centers

Most of Palestinian child detainees are currently held in Israeli jails and detention centers mainly within Israel proper. This means that the children are being held far from the their place of residency.

Family visits are very rare due to Israeli policies and procedures and total siege imposed on the Palestinian territories. As for the lawyers' visits, if he/she is allowed to visit his/her client, this should take place in the presence of at least two officers who usually understand Arabic and keep asking them to finish. This new regulation clearly infringes the confidentiality of the lawyer-client relationship and puts both the lawyer and the detainee under great pressure and sense of discomfort.

Child detainees in the Israeli detention centers are totally isolated from the outside world; they are not allowed to watch TV, listen to the radio or read newspapers, noting that very few of them are allowed visits from their families and lawyers as in the manner mentioned earlier.

As for the distribution of child detainees in detention centers up to August 2003, it is as follows:
Jalameh (kishon): 2 children, Maskoubeya (Russian Compound in Jerusalem): 2, Bitah Tikva: 3, Telmond: 78, Salem: 6, Atsyon: 10, Qadomim (Ifrayim): 7, Ramleh: 12, Negev (Kitsiot): 55, Beit El: 15, Hewwarah: 11, Ashqelon: 6, Ofer: 57, Mageddo: 31, unknown: 52.

Child Detainees according to Place of Residency:

It has been noted that 50% of child detainees come from areas with high visible Israeli military presence; mainly areas of Hebron, Nablus, Jenin and Bethlehem. While 18% of child detainees come from Ramallah and Jerusalem areas. 38% of child detainees are from areas of the north of the West Bank , 18% from areas of the Middle of WB, and 23% of the southern areas of the WB.

As for the distribution of Detainees according to Place of residency, it's as follows:
Jerusalem 25, Hebron 53, Nablus 63, Ramallah 39, Tulkarem 22, Qalqelyah 11, jenin 30, Bethlehem 30, Tubas 6.

Child Detainees According to Year of Arrest

Year of Arrest / Number of Detainees
Since Before 2000: 14
Since 2001: 15
Since 2002: 110
Since 2003: 200

Child Detainees According to their Current Age:
The child detainees in the age period 15-18 years are as follows:

Year of Birth/age / Number of Detainees
1985 (18 years old): 133
1986 (17 years): 113
1987(16 Years): 16
1988 (15 years): 15

Note: * Dauod Deek is a Palestinian researcher living in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
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