Last Thursday 17 April marked Palestinian Prisoners’ Day and yet, throughout the past week, Al-Haq documented the arrest by Israeli forces of 30 Palestinian civilians from several cities across the West Bank. Since the beginning of 2014, 26 Palestinians, including 12 children, were arrested in the Gaza Strip while attempting to cross the separation barrier into Israel. According to Addameer’s Monthly Detention Report for March 2014, there are currently 5,224 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, including 210 children, of which 28 are under the age of 16.
Nidal Ra’ed al-Loh – al-Masdar village – the Gaza Strip
On Monday 14 April at approximately 1:30 pm, Nidal, 17, made his way towards the buffer zone, a no-go area that surrounds the Gaza Strip both on land - along the border with Israel - and at sea. He intended to sneak across the border into Israel to find work. Nidal crawled towards the border, climbed a three metre barrier and jumped to the other side. There, he walked for a few metres before Israeli soldiers stationed in the watchtowers nearby shot in his direction and fired smoke canisters. Nidal immediately lay down on the ground. The shooting continued for approximately two minutes.
A few minutes later, five Israeli military jeeps arrived and approximately 20 fully armed soldiers stepped out. They surrounded Nidal and pointed their guns at him before ordering him to raise his arms and take off all of his clothes. He was then instructed to put only his trousers back on. Three of the soldiers approached Nidal and handcuffed his hands behind his back with plastic chains, blindfolded him using his shirt and put a cell phone to his ear. The person on the phone spoke to Nidal in Arabic and asked him his name, address and the reason that he was sneaking into Israel. He then proceeded to ask Nidal if he knew anything about the underground tunnels used by Palestinian resistance movements and if he is acquainted with any Hamas personnel; Nidal denied both.
Ten minutes later, after the phone call had ended, one of the soldiers put Nidal inside a jeep and drove for approximately 30 minutes. Nidal was then taken out of the vehicle and his blindfold was removed. At that point he realised that he was in a military camp in which a series of containers were located.
Nidal was taken into one of the rooms where two people dressed in green military outfits were sitting behind a desk. One of them asked Nidal the same questions he was asked previously on the phone. The interrogation lasted for 15 minutes, after which Nidal was taken out of the room and was left outside for about an hour in the sun with his hands tied behind his back. He was then put in a military jeep which drove for almost 30 minutes before he was released at Beit Hanoun crossing, in the north of the Gaza Strip.
When Nidal reached the Palestinian side of the crossing, members of the Palestinian internal security forces detained him for approximately an hour and interrogated him about his attempt to sneak into Israel. The security forces then took an affidavit from Nidal regarding his earlier arrest and took note of his cell phone number before releasing him. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 9538/2014)
Malek Bassem Esseile – East Jerusalem
On Friday 18 April at approximately 6:00 pm, Malek, 13, and his friend Majd, 8, decided to return to their houses in the old city of Jerusalem after having spent some time practicing their parkour skills in the yards of Al-Aqsa Mosque. On their way home they saw stones on the ground left over from clashes that had taken place earlier that day between Palestinians and Israeli forces. An old man asked Malek and Majd to move a big rock out of the way. As Malek was about to pick up the rock, an Israeli police officer grabbed him from behind, pushed him on the floor and pressed his knees against his cheeks. The police officer twisted Malek’s arms behind his back, pulled him up and then punched him on his arm. The police officer then took hold of Malek by his shirt and dragged him along the street. Some of the young men in the vicinity intervened and told the police officer that Malek was a minor and should not be treated in this manner. The police officer responded by saying that Malek could have injured someone’s head by throwing the big rock. Meanwhile, Malek could see Majd being held by another police officer a few metres away.
Both Majd and Malek were taken to Beit Yahu police station in the old city. Malek recalls being escorted inside by a police officer before being seated in the hallway. The police officer asked Malek “Do you want to confess or not?” He raised his hand at Malek as if he was about to slap him. Malek denied being guilty of anything. There were three other police officers in the hallway, one of whom told Malek that when he was transferred to the next police station he should admit to throwing stones, as it would lower the penal sentence against him. In the time that Malek was held in the hallway, the police officers released Majd.
Malek was kept in the hallway for approximately half an hour, after which he was taken to another police station in the old city. His father, who had arrived shortly after Malek’s arrest, accompanied his son to the second police station. There, Malek and his father were taken into a room where an interrogator was waiting. The interrogator asked Malek’s father to turn off his cell phone and not to intervene in the course of the investigations. The interrogator then informed Malek that it would be in his own interest to admit to throwing a stone at a settler. Malek denied the accusation and asked the interrogator if he had evidence. The interrogator shouted at Malek, telling him again that he would be released only after he admitted to the act. Malek again denied the accusation.
The interrogator then asked Malek’s father to wait outside the room for five minutes, which he did. While his father was outside, the interrogator again told Malek to admit to throwing stones, which Malek once again denied. The interrogator then made Malek sign a document written in Hebrew. The document had one sentence in Arabic stating that he was not beaten during his arrest. Malek signed the document out of fear, as the interrogator shouted at him in an intimidating manner. Malek was then taken into a room where he had his picture taken, along with his fingerprints and a saliva sample. He was then returned to the interrogation room and his father was brought back in.
Malek and his father both had to sign a document stating that Malek is prohibited from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque for three weeks and should he defy this order, his father would have to pay 10,000 shekels (approximately USD 2,900). Malek was released at approximately 12:30 am that night. The next morning, Malek noticed some bruising on his left side as a result of the violent arrest process. Malek is currently denied entry into Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is 50 metres away from his house and is where he usually gathers with his friends to practice his parkour skills. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 9540/2014)
With regards to the above cases, Al-Haq condemns the assault and ill-treatment that the children suffered at the hands of the Israeli soldiers and police officers during the arrest process and in custody. The ill-treatment of child detainees represents a serious violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which affords special protection to child detainees, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Al-Haq calls upon Israel to cease its practice of arbitrary arrests of Palestinians in general and children in particular, and to strictly abide by its legal obligations under international human rights law, including the right of all persons deprived of their liberty to be treated with humanity and respect for their dignity.