Palestinian children are systematically subjected to torture and violence, including threats of rape, by Israeli interrogators, in order to force them to confess to stone-throwing.
In November 2009, B’Tselem began receiving reports of violence against Palestinian minors during interrogation at the Etzion police station. Until July 2013, B’Tselem field researchers collected 64 testimonies from residents of eight communities in the southern West Bank who reported such incidents. Fifty-six of them were minors at the time of their interrogation. The testimonies described severe physical violence during the interrogation or preliminary questioning, which, in some cases, amounted to torture. The violence included slaps, punches and kicks to all parts of the body, and blows with objects, such as a gun or a stick. Some of the former interrogatees also reported threats: in twelve cases, they claimed that the interrogator had threatened them or female relatives with sexual assault, such as rape and genital injury. In six cases, the interrogatees claimed that the interrogators had threatened to execute them; in eight cases, the interrogators allegedly threatened to harm family members; and in five other cases, they allegedly threatened to electrocute the interrogatees, including in a way that would damage their fertility.
“I’ll murder you if you don’t confess”
B’Tselem included the testimony of M.A., a 15-year-old boy, from Husan village near Bethlehem:
The interrogator “Daud” took me outside with a soldier. They blindfolded me. The plastic cable ties were still on my hands. They put me in a car and started driving. I don’t know where they took me. We reached some place outside Etzion and they forced me out of the car. My hands really hurt because of the cable ties. They took off my blindfold. I didn’t know where I was. They tied me to a tree, and then they raised my cuffed hands and tied them to the tree, too. It hurt a lot. “Daud” started punching me. After a few minutes, he took out a gun and said: “I’ll murder you if you don’t confess! Out here, no one will find you. We’ll kill you and leave you here.
While the revelations from B’Tselem are shocking, they are, sadly, hardly new. The accounts of the Palestinian children are consistent with those collected in dozens of cases in 2012 alone by Defence for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI).
These cases include routine use of solitary confinement with no access to family or lawyers, as well as physical violence, to force children to confess.
Last year, DCI released the brief video above, Alone, highlighting the experience and testimonies of Palestinian children abused and tortured by the occupation forces.
The film makes the point that Palestinian children subjected to military occupation have no one to protect them from such abuses by Israeli forces.
As of June this year, there are 193 Palestinian children in Israeli prisons of whom 41 were between the ages of 12 and 15.
Some 7,500 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli occupation forces since the year 2000, according to DCI.
Systematic violence and near total impunity
B’Tselem reports that its efforts to obtain accountability for Palestinian victims in dozens of cases have been met with stone-walling.
The group said its appeals to the occupation to deal “systemically” with the phenomenon of torture and violence at Etzion have gone nowhere:
Although B’Tselem contacted the Israel Police on this matter repeatedly, no official answer was given to the question whether any steps had been taken to address the phenomenon and, if so, what they were. All our communications with the police on the matter were met with denial.
B’Tselem said that the high number of consistent reports of torture suggest a systematic process:
The high number of reports B’Tselem has received regarding violent interrogations at the Etzion station, and the fact that they span several years, gives rise to heavy suspicion that this is not a case of a single interrogator who chose to use illegal interrogation methods, but rather an entire apparatus that backs him up and allows such conduct to take place.
B’Tselem itself issued a report about the torture of children at Etzion police station as far back as 2001.
Again, B’Tselem’s experience matches that of other Israeli groups, such as Yesh Din, that have found that efforts to obstain justice for Palestinians from their oppressors result in almost total and systematic impunity for the abusers.