Torture and ill-treatment of child detainees

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), a member of the OMCT network, of the torture to which a child was subjected during detention in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

  • BY TOPIC: Human Rights

    According to the information received, at around 2 pm on April 24th 2003, 16-year-old Mejad Abdalatif Fatah Sabach was arrested by Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers near Kfar Geva/Jenin. He was in a taxi on the way to school. The soldiers handcuffed him, stripped him of his clothes down to his underpants and hit him all over his body, including on the head. They reportedly subsequently tightened his handcuffs so much that the marks were still visible two and a half months later, when he submitted his complaint.

    While they were transporting him blindfolded to the prison facility at Araba, the soldiers beat him again. When they arrived, they threw him into the camp with his hands and feet tightly handcuffed. He was left that way until 10 pm, without receiving any food or drink. He was then transferred to the Salem detention facility. On arrival, four soldiers beat him on the head, the face, the stomach and the legs until he bled, using the butts of their rifles and sticks. This lasted until 2 am.

    Mejad was subsequently taken to the Kishon Detention Center, where he was questioned for three hours while seated on a small chair, with his hands and feet handcuffed and his body bent backwards. After this, he was put in solitary confinement for one week. During this time he was interrogated twice, once for 6 hours and once for 3 hours.

    He was then taken to the Megiddo Prison. After having been held there for 15 days in a tent with 20 other prisoners, he was sent back to the Kishon Detention Centre for another week in solitary confinement. On the 7th day of detention there, he was taken for an interrogation which lasted from 10 am to 5 pm. During this interrogation Mejad was placed in a painful position, his back stretched backwards, with his interrogator kicking him in the legs. The following day, he was again interrogated for three hours, seated in the same position. The many kicks that he received made it difficult for him to stand. After this interrogation, he was taken back to his cell, where he remained until June 20th 2003, when he was taken to the Sharon Prison, where he is still being held.

    Background Information

    Over the past month, the International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by PCATI and Defence for Children International/Palestine Section (DCIPA), another member of the SOS-Torture network, of the alarming situation of many other Palestinian children in detention. OMCT is gravely concerned by the high number of allegations of unlawful arrests and detention, torture and ill-treatment of children while in police custody or in Israeli detention facilities, as well as the poor and often inhuman living conditions there.

    PCATI reported several cases of arbitrary detention, such as that of Salim Za’ul who was arrested on October 25th 2000. He was 14 years old at that time and was taken away from his home at 3:00 am by Israeli soldiers who told his father that they would take him away for some 15 minutes. During an interrogation session they insulted and tortured Salim into admitting that he had thrown some stones. Among other torture techniques, they beat him and threatened to arrest his brother. Later, he was transferred by ambulance to a clinic. The doctor saw that his head was swollen as a result of the beatings and gave him medicine.

    After this, he was held in solitary confinement and refused any contacts with his family during 8 days. On November 1st 2000 he was transferred to Telmond Prison, where he was detained with criminal prisoners. Some of them tried to rape him, but Salim called out to the wardens who came to his rescue. Three days later, he reported the incident to the officer in charge of the unit, who refused to transfer him to another one. A week later, while in the courtyard, Salim had his left leg cut with a razor blade by another inmate. As a result of this, he was finally released on May 13th 2001. According to his mother, he refused to return to school and remained at home most of the time. He now wants to start working, although he is still reportedly traumatised by these events.

    The International Secretariat has also been informed by DCI of the case of 17 year old Muhammad al-Sinawi from Azariya. He was arrested and brought to Atzion Military Detention Centre by members of the Israeli forces at 1:00 am on September 4th, 2003. During the detention, his mother gave medical reports to the soldiers, saying that he was sick, but the soldiers just tore them up. At Atzion Detention Centre he was severely beaten in the face, on the hands and the legs by 4 plain-clothes policemen. They tied his hands and legs with cuffs and opened his legs with force to hit him on and around his genitalia. Additionally, Muhammad was tortured with electric shocks and a dog was used to scare him.

    Before Muhammad was arrested, he had suffered severe medical problems, including cancer (of the lungs, lymph gland and blood). He had been treated over 2 years and had to stay in hospital for one and a half years. Today, he is still recovering and requires regular check-ups to monitor his condition. On September 29th, 2003 he should have gone to the hospital for his treatment, but he missed the appointment as he remained in detention. Since his arrest, his treatment has been stopped and he has not received any further treatment. To date, OMCT has not received further information about his situation.

    DCI has also informed OMCT of the continuing inhuman living conditions in Israeli detention facilities for Palestinian children and reported that their situation has not improved during recent months. Although the treatment of detainees vary between facilities, serious overcrowding, bad and insufficiently sanitary installations and very poor food in quality and quantity are a problem in most facilities.

    The end of the Road-Map peace process at the end of August 2003 was reportedly accompanied by increased arbitrary detentions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which accentuates the problem of overcrowding.

    Due to overcrowding in permanent facilities, so-called “temporary centres” without special provisions for minors continue to hold child detainees for prolonged periods of time. This even concerns child prisoners who have been tried, even though they are supposed to be moved to permanent facilities under Israeli rules. In Atzion Military Detention Centre outside Bethlehem, 7 prisoners are being held in cells of 2,5m x 2,5m, with no distinction made between adults and children. Moreover, Atzion is reported to be the facility with the harshest living conditions. Apart from the very serious and continuing allegations of torture and ill-treatment, inmates are refused basic hygiene, adequate food and access to toilets.

    Overcrowding in the Ramle Women’s Prison, where 10 girls were detained in October 2003, means that up to 8 women are held in each cell, and the number of skin diseases is reportedly increasing as a result of those conditions. The quality of food is reported to be extremely bad and helpings have been halved in the last weeks. The administration has even prohibited schoolbooks and other academic material, which the inmate’s families used to bring for them. Detainees who have not been sentenced are not allowed to have any books at all. These restrictions are in complete contradiction with Israeli civil law and International law.

    At Telmond Prison, the prison personnel reportedly conduct intimate searches and complete strip searches before visits, and when prisoners have refused this treatment, they have been subjected to beatings and solitary confinement.

    The International Secretariat of OMCT is gravely concerned by the living conditions and use of torture and ill-treatment in Israeli detention centres. OMCT calls on the Israeli authorities to order the immediate release of all detainees being held in the absence of valid legal charges in line with international law, or if such charges exist, to ensure that the detainees are detained in adequate conditions and receive a prompt and fair trial. OMCT recalls that the behaviour of the interrogators described above is in flagrant breach of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It also violates Israeli law, notably clauses 277 (1), 277 (2), and 427 (A) of the Criminal Law, 1977.

    OMCT urges the Israeli government to respect these laws and to specifically ensure that child prisoners are detained in conditions that meet guarantees outlined in Art. 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: (a) “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”; (b) “No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time”; (c) “Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. In particular, every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child’s best interest not to do so and shall have the right to maintain contact with his or her family through correspondence and visits, save in exceptional circumstances”.

    Action requested

    Please write to the authorities in Israel urging them to:

    1. take all measures necessary to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mejad Abdalatif Fatah Sabach, Muhammad al-Sinawi and of all the other detained persons, especially the children;

    2. order their immediate release in the absence of legal charges that are consistent with international law and standards, or, if such charges exist, bring them before an impartial and competent tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times;
    iii. order a thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations of torture, in order to identify those responsible, bring them to trial and apply the penal and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law;

    3. guarantee that adequate reparation is provided to the victims of these abuses;

    4. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards.

    Addresses:

  • Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, Office of the Prime Minister, 3 Kaplan Street, PO Box 187, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem 91919, Israel, Fax: +972 2 6512631/6705475, E-mail: rohm@pmo.gov.il.
  • Minister of Justice, Yosef Lapid, 29 Salah al-Din Street, Jerusalem 91010, Israel, Fax : +972 2 628 5438, E-mail: sar@justice.gov.il.
  • Attorney General/Legal Adviser to the Government, Elyakim Rubinstein, Ministry of Justice, 29 Salah al-Din Street, Jerusalem 91010, Israel, Fax: +972 2 6285438.
  • Judge Attorney General, Major General Menachem Finkelstein, Israeli Defence Forces, Fax: +972 3 5694370.
  • Colonel Shaul Gordon, President of the Military Appeal Court, No address available, Fax: +972 2 588 4458.
  • Colonel Daniel Reisner, IDF Legal Department, No address available, Fax: +972 3 5693320.
  • Ambassador Yaakov Levy, Av. de la Paix 1-3, CH-1202, Genève, Suisse, E-mail: mission-israel@geneva.mfa.gov.il, Fax: +4122 716 05 55.

    Please also write to the embassies of Israel in your respective country. Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

    OMCT International Secretariat, PO Box 21, 8, rue du Vieux-Billard, CH-1211, Geneva 8, Switzerland, Phone: + 41 22 809 4939, Fax: + 41 22 809 4929, e-mail: omct@omct.org; OMCT Europe, Rue du Marteau 19, B-1000 Bruxelles – Belgique, Tel/Fax : +32 2 218 37 19, e-mail : omcteurope@omct.org.