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(Ismael Mohamad / United Press International)

Half Israel’s Palestinian child prisoners are held illegally outside West Bank in G4S-equipped prisons

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Activists protest outside G4S headquarters in London. (Photo: inminds.com)

Israel is detaining 195 Palestinian children from the West Bank, more than half of them outside of the occupied territory in violation of international law, according to recent Israeli figures.

In an appeal from Defence for Children International - Palestine Section (DCI-PS), the group writes that according to December 2012 Israeli Prison Service figures, 51 percent of child detainees had been transferred to Megiddo, Moscobiyye, Hasharon and al-Jalame (Kishon) prisons located outside the West Bank.

This transfer to Israel is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, in particular articles 49, 66 and 76. The latter states that “persons accused of offenses shall be detained in the occupied country.”

Israeli requires vistors from the West Bank and Gaza to obtain permits to travel to these prisons. This restrictive permit system is a serious obstacle for lawyer and families.

Ninety-four of these children are held in Ofer prison in the West Bank. All these detention facilities have been equipped by British-Danish security firm G4S.

Who Profits (a project of the Coalition of Women for Peace based in Tel Aviv) has researched G4S’s role in securing Israel’s prisons. They found that G4S Israel has installed and operates the central control room of the Megiddo prison. It has provided the entire security systems and central control room in Hasharon and the security systems for al-Jalame and Moscobiyye (also known as the Russian Compound) detention and interrogation centers.

At Ofer prison, G4S has installed peripheral defense systems and operates a central control room for the entire compound.

Testimony of 15-year-old Salah

DCI-PS continues to document testimonies by Palestinian child prisoners. For example, 15-year-old Salah was arrested by Israeli soldiers in Qalqiliya on 14 January. Salah was looking for sage plants in the small forest near his village when four Israeli soldiers accused him of having thrown stones. Salah denied this. He recounts:

They started shouting at me. One of them punched me really hard in the face and knocked me down. The four of them started kicking me and hitting me with the barrel of their rifles.

Salah’s hands were then tied tightly behind his back with a single plastic cord. Salah’s father arrived but the soldiers prevented him from approaching his son. Salah was pulled by the plastic cord and made to walk very fast toward the main street. Once on the main street he was blindfolded and ordered to sit next to the jeep. About half an hour later more jeeps arrived and Salah was forced into one of them and made sit on the metal floor. He was not told where he was being taken.

Israeli soldiers inside the jeep verbally abused Salah insulting him and calling him “dog, son of a whore.” After the jeep stopped, “they pulled me out and made me walk for about ten minutes, with one of them kicking me from behind. I was kept tied and blindfolded. I fell twice,” Salah said.

At Ariel police station, Salah was interrogated without having been informed of his rights. Salah told DCI-PS that the interrogator called him a liar for denying he had thrown stones:

About ten minutes later, two of the four soldiers who arrested me came in and started slapping and kicking me about ten times at least. “You threw stones,” they were shouting. Then, the interrogator came back and saw them beating me, but he did not do anything. They stopped beating me and left the room. “Did you throw stones?” the interrogator asked. “Yes I did,” I said, because I was afraid they might come back and beat me again.

Salah was ordered to sign a statement written in Arabic without having read it or without having it been explained to him. Salah was again blindfolded and forced to sit on the metal floor of the jeep. With his hands tied, he arrived at Huwwara detention and interrogation center where he was strip searched.

Two soldiers standing by the door started beating me for no reason. They slapped me several times and one of them hit me on the head with something. I felt so much pain and my head swelled. I did not know what he hit me with. I screamed because of the pain but they did not give me any medical attention. My head remained swollen for two days.

Later, Salah was transferred to Megiddo prison inside Israel and again strip searched on arrival.

Testimony of 14-year-old Ehsan

On 13 December last year, 14-year-old Ehsan and his brother Osama were playing with a group of children near the wall in their village near the northern West Bank city of Jenin. Two Israeli soldiers saw the group and “one of them opened fire at us for no reason.”

In response, some of the children began to throw stones at the soldiers. More soldiers arrived and began to chase the group, catching Ehsan’s brother Osama. Ehsan returned to Osama to try to help him escape from the soldiers. Ehsan reached for his brother. The soldier who held Osama grabbed Ehsan and started to kick and slap him:

They kept doing this for about five minutes. Then they tied my hands behind my back with two plastic cords and tightened them hard. They did the same to my brother.

They two brothers were blindfolded and pushed into a military jeep where they were forced to sit on the metal floor. They did not know they were taken to al-Jalame checkpoint, where they were pulled out of the jeep and forced to sit on the ground. “A soldier asked me why I threw stones and I told him that I did not do it, but he called me a liar, a dog and an animal.”

After two hours, they were taken to Salem interrogation and detention center where they were interrogated separately. The interrogator “did not explain my rights like my right to remain silent and to be interrogated with a lawyer or family member present,” one of the boys recalled. Ehsan denied the accusation of throwing stones. Following the interrogation, Ehsan and Osama were transferred to Megiddo prison, inside Israel:

We arrived at Megiddo prison late at night and they took us to a room one-by-one, where a jailer from the Israel Prison Service strip searched me by ordering me to take off all my clothes. I was completely naked like the day I was born and I was very ashamed.

Comments

From Wikapedia, I understand that G4S is the world's largest security company, and it is British. Given its stature, it could well afford to drop contracts for equipment used in these revolting, certainly illegal but profoundly barbaric prisons where children are detained and brutally mistreated. Its image would surely profit from such a decison.

How can my country continue to subsidize a nation whose army dehumanizes innocent children in such a brutal and illegal manner?

The "Best Kept Secret:" Palestinians arrested (with no charge) and arbitrarily incarcerated often with no access to legal consul, family/Red Cross, no rights! Many of these arrested, beaten, tortured in Israeli prisons are young children; and Israeli soldiers in full uniform come to their homes in the early morning (2-3am) and take them to Israeli prisons and parents have no rights or way of resisting this outrageous violation of human rights, especially when the Israeli military government has directed soldiers to proceed in such tactics to break the spirit of the children, young people ... Such entities as Israel and with U.S. "blind" support seemingly or knowingly demonstrate openly hypocrisy and corruption. All citizenry, all moral, ethical beings must stand up, speak out that these injustices must STOP!