An Israeli soldier stands by blindfolded students from the Palestine Technical College in the Arroub refugee camp, 30 October. (Mamoun Wazwaz/MaanImages)
On 30 October 2008, at 10:15am, the Israeli army stormed the faculty of the Palestine Technical College in Arroub refugee camp, Hebron and arrested students from some of the classrooms. The students were blindfolded, shackled, and then repeatedly beaten, slapped, and punched all over the body. They were then taken to Gush Etzion military detention center. At 9:00pm two of the boys were released, however, eight of them are still in detention in Ofer Prison. None of the boys are older than 16.
Hatem is a teacher at the Palestine Technical College. He was the only teacher present in the playground area at that time. One of the soldiers shouted at him, “Where are the boys that threw stones?” This was in response to an allegation that stones had been thrown at an Israeli civilian car by a person who came from the refugee camp and who had been wearing a black jacket.
Hatem told the soldier that the typical school day is from 8:00am to 2:30pm so all of the children were inside their classes. The soldier then pushed Hatem to the ground and ordered the other soldiers to search the college. Around 10 soldiers entered the college. They kicked the doors and entered the classrooms where the children were taking their practical classes. They closed the door and one of the soldiers started beating a physically disabled student that was sitting in the first row. The soldiers started yelling at the boys and then pushed one of the students, “MD.” One of the soldiers grabbed MD and shouted, “You are the boy that threw the stones!” MD was arrested along with six other boys. The soldiers subsequently entered the other classrooms and began randomly arresting students. They specifically targeted those who were wearing black jackets. The soldiers then took all of the boys to the playground area and prevented the teachers from talking with the students.
The soldiers subsequently started to beat one of the students, “RB,” by slapping his face and kicking him on his head. Hatem tried to help him, however, the soldiers threatened to open fire. They then fired stun grenades and live bullets into the playground area. The soldiers continued to beat some of the other detained students. Hatem states that he could hear the students screaming from the beatings, however, he was prevented from doing anything to help them. The director of the college called an ambulance, however, it was delayed due to the soldiers blocking the entrance of the camp. The soldiers then blindfolded and shackled 19 students and forced them to sit at the base of the military tower at the entrance of the refugee camp. After 15 minutes the soldiers released nine students.
Testimony from 16-year-old student taken by Addameer Attorney Firas Sabbah on 3 November 2008 at Gush Etzion Military Detention Centre.
My name is RB. I was born on the 26 October 1992. I’m a 10th grade student at the Palestine Technical College where I study agriculture. On 30 October 2008, as usual I went to school. I was supposed to have an exam that day. At around 10:30am I was terrified when I saw soldiers entering the classroom. They started randomly arresting my classmates. Then the soldier told me to get out of the class. I was taken to the playground area of the school. When the soldier saw me looking at him he grabbed my head and slapped me on the face. He told me to keep my face to the ground. After that he made all of us stand in one row and we were forced to walk one after the other towards the military tower. I lost my place in the row and the soldier hit me on my legs and kicked me. Another soldier beat me until we reached the gate of the refugee camp. After that, the soldier laughed in my face and when I looked back he slapped me and beat me so hard on the chest that I felt it was difficult to breathe. I fell to the ground where I continued to be beaten. After about three hours I was blindfolded and shackled and pushed into the military jeep. My blindfold slipped in the process of getting into the jeep so I was beaten again.
The Court Hearing
On 6 November 2008, the eight children were brought to Ofer military court. They had been detained for eight days until they were brought before the court. All boys were charged with throwing stones despite the fact that the evidence is built upon the testimonies of only three soldiers. In this initial hearing, the boys’ detention was extended until 11 November, 2008. In their defense, Addameer Attorney Mahmoud Hassan argued that these children are being detained with adults in an adult facility which is in total violation of international law. On the 28 October 2008, Hassan used this similar argument to secure the release of two 14-year-old boys, who were arrested from their homes in Beit Ummar on 9 October 2008. Each boy was released with a bail of 8,000 NIS (approx. $2,111). Indeed, according to Addameer’s experience, this is the first time that a military judge has agreed to release children under the pretense that it is illegal for them to be detained with adults. On this occasion, however, the military judge rejected Hassan’s argument and ordered that the boys be detained until the end of trial. This decision was appealed and called for the boys to be released on bail. The result of this latest appeal will be heard in Ofer Military Court on 20 November 20, 2008. On 14 December 2008 the court will commence with a hearing from the witnesses.
Addameer strongly condemns the collective punishment of these school boys and their continued detention without sufficient evidence. The Convention on the Rights of the Child sets up universally recognized principles and norms as minimal standards for children’s rights. One fundamental principle of sentencing is that the deprivation of liberty, if used at all, should only be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time (Art. 37 (b), CRC). Clearly this is not the case for these eight boys. It should be emphasized that, in accordance with the Convention, every Child without exception whatsoever, has the right to benefit from these standards. According to Israeli military order 132, Palestinian children age 16 and older are treated as adults and are tried and sentenced by Israeli military courts as adults. Israeli military orders are applied to Palestinian children, even as juvenile legislation defines Israeli children as age 18 or younger. Addameer urges the international community to demand that Israel abide by international law and treat those under the age of 18 as children. In addition, Addameer calls on the international community to insist that the Israeli occupation forces stop at once further arrests of Palestinian juveniles in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.