Child Prisoners Briefing

Many children were among the Palestinians arrested during the month, and still more are languishing without charges or trial in prisons and detention centres throughout Israel and the occupied territories (Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh)

While politicians continued to search for a way out of the deadlock of occupation and violence in November, the Israeli army persisted with its strategy of mass detention. Many children were among the Palestinians arrested during the month, and still more are languishing without charges or trial in prisons and detention centres throughout Israel and the occupied territories.

Tactics employed by the Israeli army during arrests continue to breach international human rights norms and are specifically designed to terrorise children, many of whom are later tricked or intimidated into confessing to false charges. Dawn raids on family homes are standard practice for the arrest of children accused of throwing stones, often several months beforehand. Minors, blindfolded and handcuffed, are invariably verbally abused by their captors as they travel to interrogation, and are frequently beaten and kicked as well. The questioning is often ruthless, laden with threats against the child and takes place in the absence of any lawyer or adult to protect the rights of the child. Confessions which are coerced out of the child are then used in military courts where disproportionately harsh sentences are handed down. Even if the child maintains his or her innocence throughout the interrogation, illegal military orders can be employed enabling the security forces to hold minors under the administrative detention system for a renewable six-month period without charges or a fair and open trial.

Prison life

Update on Telmond: Prison Conditions continue to be bad in Telmond Prison in the north of Israel, where many Palestinian child political prisoners are detained. The prison is composed of several separate facilities including one centre for Israeli juveniles detained for criminal offences. Overcrowding among political prisoners has meant that some Palestinian children have been moved to this criminal facility. At least five Palestinian children imprisoned for political reasons are now known to be detained there.

New problems have surfaced in the main centre for the detention of juvenile political prisoners in Telmond. More than 75 Palestinian children are being held in this facility which is intended to house less than 50 – as a result, every third child is forced to sleep on a mattress which takes up all the floor space in cells that are designed for only two beds. Until recently, the boys detained in the centre have been joined during the daytime by several adult Palestinian detainees who are held in other facilities in Telmond compound. These adults are able to act as informal counsellors, providing a guiding hand in what is often an extremely traumatic period for the boys. At the same time they voiced the concerns of the children to the prison authorities. In the past, new adult inmates would take the place of those mentors who had been released or transferred. Today however, the prison authorities at Telmond have stopped the practice. At the end of November, the last adult spokesman – Ali al-Moghrabi – was moved from the prison, much to the dismay of the boys. In an attempt to force the prison authorities to allow Al-Moghrabi to return, and as part of a wider attempt to improve conditions at the prison, the boys implemented a strike starting on 30 November. Some are even refusing to eat. As part of the strike, the boys are refusing to see their lawyers.

There are few facilities for children in compound in which the Palestinian boys are held at Telmond. There is only one teacher who visits five times a week and holds general classes for Hebrew, English and Maths. However, in order to prevent overcrowding, the boys are unable to attend lessons every day, but generally only once or twice a week. Family visits are only possible for those with relatives from Jerusalem and Ramallah; families from Hebron are denied permission to travel to Telmond. Moreover, prisoners are frequently denied prompt access to medical treatment – in one case, a 12-year old boy who has been experiencing severe leg pains after being beaten by prison guards, has been waiting to see a doctor for over a month.

Arrested and detained: administrative detention and torture continue to be used on a systematic basis, while punitive processes are growing ever harsher as the following case studies show:

Mohammed Yousef Salim Abu Kishek (17) and Hussain Ali Mahmoud Mousa Qaraan (16) both from Qalquilya

Mohammed and Hussain were moving furniture on a horse-drawn cart when Israeli soldiers arrested them near the village of Habla on 13 November. At the scene of the arrest, the soldiers started beating the boys and damaging their property – they untied the horse and allowed it to escape before completely destroying the cart by running it over with a tank. The two friends, Mohammed and Hussain, have had little formal education: Mohammed left school when he was 13 while Hussain appears never to have regularly attended school. Neither boy knew the reason for their arrest. They were taken to Qadumim police station in the Jewish settlement between Nablus and Qalquilya.

Salem Sabr Salim Saleh from Al-Jarad near Tulkarum

Salem is being held under in administrative detention in Ketziot prison in the Negev. He was arrested at the start of 2003, aged 17, and taken to Qadumim prison where he served six month of administrative detention. On 21 June, the day he was due to be released, the Israeli General Security Services slapped a further six-month sentence on to his detention order. After an appeal, this was commuted to four months, but on 20 October 2003, the day he was due to be released, he was sentenced to another four months. The arbitrary extension of administrative detention orders is a common practice by Israel. An unwritten agreement between prison administrators and inmates had previously meant that prisoners would be told a minimum of two weeks before their release date if their administrative detention was to be renewed. Now however, prisoners are increasingly being told of extensions only days, if not hours, before they are due to be released. The news causes great emotional stress and can be considered a form of psychological torture.

Kamal Wahid Kamal Harbieh (17) from Al-Aroub camp near Hebron

Kamal has so far served just over half of his 20-month sentence. He was arrested on 16 December 2002 for throwing stones. In addition to the one-year, 10-month sentence he was also ordered to pay a NIS 4,000 fine. His sentence was particularly harsh as it was the third time that he had been charged with throwing stones. On the first time, soldiers boarded the school bus on which Kamal was travelling and detained him. He was given a 15-month suspended sentence. Kamal is from a family of nine children. His father is a worker.

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