Monday, November 30, 2020

133 Palestinian children arrested by Israel in October

By Amy Mac - November 03, 2015
Section: [Main News] [Features] [Behind Bars]
Tags: [Ofer prison] [Human rights] [child arrests]

Anas Saif's family in their home in Jericho. Photo by Amy Mac.


On Oct. 20, the Israeli army entered the home of 15 year old Anas Saif in Jericho, snatching him from his bed during a nighttime raid and bundling him into the back of a military jeep.

According to Anas’ mother, Hanan Saif, as the soldiers dragged her son away she asked them to let him put clothes on – the boy was sleeping in his underwear- but the soldiers refused, taking him out to the street and slapping him across the face before handcuffing him by his arms and legs.


He was taken to Ofer prison in the West Bank, accused of throwing stones, and will be held there until Nov. 9.

“I miss him very much, and feel sad for my son, but what can I do?” said Hanan Saif.

According to prisoner support group Addameer, 133 children, including Anas, were arrested across the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel in October.

Palestinian youth have been at the forefront of the latest wave of violence gripping the region since October. As sterner measures are adopted by Israeli forces against protesters and stone throwers, the younger generation has been increasingly susceptible to arrest and detention by Israeli forces.


Yesterday Israel passed an amendment to the country's civil law, establishing a minimum prison sentence of three years for people who throw stones at Israeli troops, civilians or vehicles.


“The number of arrests spikes up when something political is happening,” said Rafat Laban, the unit coordinator for  Addameer, a Palestinian Prisoner support and Human Rights association.


“So for October, the number is quite high, and the number of children is also high,” he added


Days before Anas Saif’s arrest, his 14-year-old cousin Qais Hayek was walking back from his after-school work at a farm in Jericho. Earlier there had been clashes between youth and Israeli police near the farm. Qais was arrested, accused of throwing stones like his cousin.


According to the family, they had no knowledge of Anas Said and Qais Hayek’s whereabouts for the first three to four days after they were taken, and  since their arrests, neither of the boys have had contact with their family.  

“We don’t know anything, where is Qais? We had no idea,” said his mother, Maha Hayek.

This  is not unusual for Palestinian children arrested in the West Bank.


“In the West Bank this happens quite regularly with under-aged children, because it is under military law. When the child is arrested, sometimes the family will not know where they are detained,”  explained Laban.


“And even when they do, because the children are usually in detention centers on the other side of the border, they will not be able to physically access them,” Laban added.  


While Israeli settlers in the West Bank fall mostly under civilian rule, Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law. According to Bashar Jamal, an advocacy officer at DCI-P, this means Israeli and Palestinian youths face unequal treatment at every stage in the path of justice, from arrests to convictions and sentencing.


While civilian law requires a lawyer or parent to be present for the interrogation of a child, military law in the West Bank means there are often no provisions for an attorney or even a family member to be present when a child is questioned. Additionally, the Palestinian child is rarely informed of their rights following arrest.


This extends outside the West Bank. In Jerusalem, while civil law is supposedly applied equally to Israelis and Palestinians, Jamal explained that “this is only in theory.”


In practise, Palestinian children in East Jerusalem are often denied the rights afforded to Israeli’s.


“According to Israeli civil law, children should be summoned for questioning and not arrested, but this is rare. A huge majority are arrested from their houses or on the streets in Jerusalem. After the arrest the use of handcuffs is prohibited unless they are a threat, but in all the situations we documented handcuffs were used,” said Jamal.

The detention and maltreatment of Palestinian children as young as 11 by Israeli forces has been condemned by a number of human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a June 2015 report.


Drawing on testimonies of a number of detained Palestinian children, HRW accused Israel of “abusive arrests.”


“Security forces have choked children, thrown stun grenades at them, beaten them in custody, threatened and interrogated them without the presence of parents or lawyers, and failed to let their parents know their whereabouts."


In a 2012 report, UNICEF described the ill-treatment of children detained by Israeli forces as, “widespread, systematic, and institutionalized,” documenting a range of abuses including blindfolding and painful handcuffing with plastic ties; physical assault; denial of access to water, food, toilet facilities, and medical care; and coerced confessions usually written in Hebrew.


According to DCI-P statistics, at least 76% of Palestinian children were subject to physical violence during arrest and 43% were coerced into signing a confession in Hebrew, a language they do not understand, over the last three years.


For these children, the trauma of the arrest does not dissipate following their release.

Jamal described the psychological impacts of Israel’s ongoing policies of detention of Palestinian children as long-lasting.


“When we are talking about children as young as 12 being arrested, psychologically they will be affected. We believe that when a child is arrested from his house, the protection system he used to live in is violated,” he said.


He also stressed the impact the arrests have on a child’s education.


“The child, after his release, has to enroll back to school. He will not graduate at the same year as his friends and half of children drop out of school after their release,” he said.   


While the number of children arrested this month has increased, the statistics are not outstanding. Israeli forces arrest roughly 700 Palestinian children each year, according to HRW.


For the family of Qais and Anas, there is nothing to do but wait for the release of their children.

“It’s very hard for us. We don’t know if Anas is ok, if he is safe, but there’s nothing we can do. We hope to see him soon,” said Hanan Saif.





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