The United Nations says the ill treatment of Palestinian minor inmates within the Israeli military detention system is “widespread, systematic and institutionalized.”
The UN children’s fund, UNICEF, said in a 22-page report on Wednesday that it has examined the Tel Aviv regime’s military court system for holding Palestinian children and found evidence of “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.”
Some 7,000 Palestinian children, aged between 12 and 17, have been arrested, interrogated and prosecuted by Israeli forces, the report said, adding that the majority of them were boys.
“In no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights,” the report stated.
UNICEF analyzed the procedure employed by Israeli forces from arrest to trial of the children. It said many children were “aggressively awakened in the middle of the night by many armed soldiers and being forcibly brought to an interrogation centre tied and blindfolded, sleep deprived and in a state of extreme fear.”
Many of them faced mistreatment during the transfer process and forced to lie down on the floor of a vehicle for one day in some cases. They were also subjected to verbal or physical abuse, the report also noted.
“The interrogation mixes intimidation, threats and physical violence, with the clear purpose of forcing the child to confess,” the international body said, adding they were not accompanied by a lawyer or a family member during the interrogation.
“Children have been threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault, against themselves or a family member,” it said, adding that they were restrained during the questioning even for extended periods of time.
The maximum penalty for minor inmates, aged 12 to 13, is six months. However, it could be extended to 20 years for those who are over 14. The vast majority of Palestinian children have been arrested for throwing stones.
“The principal evidence against the child is the child’s own confession, in most cases extracted under duress during the interrogation,” the UNICEF report further said, saying they have to sign confession forms in Hebrew which they barely understand.
“Ultimately, almost all children plead guilty in order to reduce the length of their pretrial detention. Pleading guilty is the quickest way to be released. In short, the system does not allow children to defend themselves,” the report concluded.
The Israeli Supreme Court has rejected two petitions for an order to the Attorney General to carry out a criminal investigation into allegations of torture and mistreatment by the Shin Bet security agency.
A number of human rights organisations submitted the petitions last year in protest at the work of the official observer of detainees’ complaints against Shin Bet and the Public Prosecutor regarding the opening of criminal investigations into the internal security agency. Some of the detainees alleging mistreatment were signatories to the petitions.
The Popular Committee against Torture submitted a report claiming that there were 598 complaints about torture and mistreatment against the agency between 2001 and 2008. The country’s Public Prosecutor has not ordered an investigation into any of them.
Summing up, Supreme Court Judge Elyakim Rubinstein said “Shin Bet is neither above the law nor fortified against criticism, but the nature of its work has to be considered.” In addition, Judge Rubinstein said that he had to consider the “political and ideological background of absurd complaints.” The Judge pointed out that opening an investigation is very important, but it is necessary not to be arbitrary if there is clear evidence.
The Director of Israel’s Public Committee against Torture, Dr Ishai Menuhin, said that the Court supported the central claim of the petitioners that members of Shin Bet cannot investigate their own colleagues. He added that the Court’s decision contradicts international law which considers it to be mandatory to open an immediate and independent investigation into allegations of torture.
- HRO criticize Israeli Supreme Court over Palestinian prisoners torture (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- Knesset Exempts Shin Bet from Recording Interrogations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- UN Committee against Torture releases list of issues for Israel (alethonews.wordpress.com)
In June, the UN Committee Against Torture (the Committee) released a list of issues it would like the Government of Israel to address when the Committee reviews Israel’s compliance with the Convention Against Torture (CAT) in 2013. Specific issues raised by the Committee relevant to the continued prosecution of Palestinian children in military courts include:
- What steps has the Government of Israel taken to audio-visually record interrogations conducted by the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) as a further means to prevent torture and ill-treatment? DCI-Palestine further recommends that this inquiry should be broadened to include interrogations conducted by the Israeli police, being the body most likely to interrogate Palestinian children from the West Bank.
- What steps has the Government of Israel taken to ensure that all detainees are promptly brought before a judge and have prompt access to a lawyer? Under military law, Palestinian children are not required to be brought before a judge for 8 days, and can be denied access to a lawyer for up to 90 days. By way of contrast, Israeli children, including those living in the settlements, must be brought before a judge within 24 hours and can be denied access to a lawyer for 48 hours.
- Please indicate how many Palestinian prisoners from the Occupied Palestinian Territory are held in detention facilities inside Israel? Transferring and detaining Palestinian prisoners out of occupied territory violates article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and attracts personal criminal liability under articles 146 and 147 of the same convention.
- Please indicate the measures taken to ensure that the detention or imprisonment of a child is used as a measure of last resort, that solitary confinement is never used as a means of coercion or punishment and that all children receive appropriate education.
- Please also explain the regime applied to children under military detention, in particular if their interrogations are recorded and if their parents or other legal representatives can have access to them. DCI-Palestine recommends that all interrogations of children must be audio-visually recorded and parents must be entitled to accompany their children at all times, as is the right generally afforded to Israeli children. Further, children must be entitled to consult with a lawyer of their choice prior to their interrogation.
The full list of issues released by the Committee is available here.
- UK Foreign Office agrees that imprisoning Palestinian children inside Israel violates international law – but what are they going to do? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli interrogators sexually harass Palestinian children in detention (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- World Psychiatric Association: Enabling Israeli Apartheid? (windowintopalestine.blogspot.com)
- A Seminar on Palestine’s Prisoners: A Lament on Injustice (alethonews.wordpress.com)
New explosive revelations show British soldiers tortured Iraqi civilians who were hooded, stripped-naked and assaulted in secret black jails under direct authority of the Ministry of Defense and in blatant violation of Geneva Conventions on rights of victims of war.
The shocking abuse, sanctioned by the senior Ministry of Defense (MoD) lawyers, was carried out in a network of secret prisons in Iraq, including at a deserted phosphate mine site, after the US-led invasion of the country in 2003, in blatant breaches of international and human rights law.
The torture led to the death of at least one civilian who was beaten to death aboard an RAF helicopter while 63 others remain missing after being flown to a “black site” prison at an oil pipeline pumping station, The Daily Mail reported.
The chief British Army lawyer in Iraq during the 2003 invasion, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Mercer, who should have been informed of the tortures, but was kept “totally in the dark” said the incidents in the secret prisons amount to “war crimes.”
“The allegations are blatant violations of the Geneva Conventions and UN Convention Against Torture. If indeed prisoners were rendered beyond Iraq’s borders, then this is potentially one of the most serious war crimes under the Rome Statute,” Mercer said.
Mercer added that the “prisoner facility operated entirely outside the normal chain of command” and warned the government can deny all charges related to the facility if it manages to get its controversial secret justice plans into the law.
The government is now pushing the Justice and Security Bill through the Commons that allows confidential documents offered by the security services in the courts in defense of itself to be withheld from other parties.
The coincidence of the revelations by a number of victims of the abuse in the secret prisons who are taking legal action with the government’s secret justice plans has raised fears that officials can bury their flagrant violations of human rights and the international law forever.
“I find it remarkable that I knew nothing about it at the time. What is clear now is that, if the Justice and Security Bill does become law, the truth may never come out,” Mercer said.
“These are alleged war crimes, but what Britain did may never be disclosed. Indeed, the Bill may be specifically designed to prevent such allegations ever coming to light,” he added.
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The Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) has released a paper on its efforts to hold the Israel Security Agency (ISA) – or Shabak – to account for its practices of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees. In Accountability Still Denied, PCATI reveals how Israel has evaded criminal investigations into all 701 complaints of torture and ill-treatment.
In October 1991, Israel ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Israel should therefore prevent acts of torture. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever may be invoked as a justification of torture, according to the Convention. According to article 4, Israel must ensure that all acts of torture, attempts to commit torture and acts of complicity or participation in torture are made punishable “by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.” However, PCATI found that Israel has hitherto ignored its international obligations to halt torture.
Torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees
Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations have consistently reported about violations of the rights of Palestinian political prisoners. In its paper, PCATI presents a summary of two complaints on torture. In the case of Jihad Mughrabi the Shabak used physical force, beating the detainee’s head and chest with their fists and guns and kicking his legs. The violence produced bleeding wounds and the detainee lost consciousness while being tortured. He was taken to hospital. Shabak agents also exerted psychological pressure by showing Mughrabi detained family members. Mughrabi’s testimony is recorded on video.
Ala’a Salem also filed a complaint of torture suffered during Shabak interrogations. Ala’a was interviewed by Social Television to spread his story. The video is in Arabic with subtitles in Hebrew:
Habib Ph. Jaudy has translated what Ala’a said into English:
“They put me in jail for two days. Then they brought me back to the isolation cell and chained me.
Starting from there my treatment was beyond description. Naturally during this whole time I was forbidden to meet the lawyer.
I was placed on concrete, with my hands and feet in steel chains.
For the first period, after every eight hours of chaining they’d give me two and a half minutes of rest to eat and go to the toilet. But if you dare to ask to go to the toilet when you are chained [i.e. at a time other than your permitted two-and-a-half minute rest period], the eight hours would be extended to ten or even twelve hours of chaining as punishment.
At one time on the second day in the ‘hotel’ [this must be the interrogation place] there was a crazy Jewish person in the cell next to me shouting for 24 hours. So even if I was dying to sleep in my condition I couldn’t close my eyes. So I asked to go to the toilet, but in vain, I shouted but still in vain. (Video cut at that point.)
The reaction was that five soldiers came in and started hitting me. My nose was bleeding and blood came out of my mouth and I couldn’t do anything as I was chained. At that time I had tears running down my face … firstly because of the harsh pain and secondly because of the feeling that you can’t do anything about it.”
No proper procedure to investigate complaints
The majority of detainees who reported torture or ill-treatment to PCATI’s lawyers refused to submit complaints to the Israeli authorities. According to PCATI, the Palestinian detainees lack trust in Israel’s mechanism of investigation or fear reprisals.
Nevertheless, the Inspector of Interrogee Complaints (IIC) – who is an agent of the Shabak – received 701 complaints of torture and ill-treatment between 2001 and 2010. In 2009 and 2010 the IIC received 52 and 51 complaints respectively. PCATI informed me that the trend in the number of complaints continued in 2011.
Complaints of torture and ill-treatment have to be submitted to the Attorney General, who delegates a senior official within the State Attorney’s office to decide upon the complaints. Instead of opening a criminal investigation, the senior official refers the complaints for a preliminary inquiry to the Shabak Inspector of Interrogee Complaints. PCATI criticizes the inquiry:
Complainants’ testimonies are taken by the IIC during very brief and unannounced visits, It has been common practice for the IIC to falsely introduce himself as a representative of the Ministry of Justice, and complainants’ testimonies have been taken under conditions that replicate the interrogation itself: in the very same room where ISA interrogations take place, and, in some instances, while the complainants have remained shackled for the duration of the meeting.
No complaint of torture criminally investigated
Based on an analysis of its correspondence with the State Attorney’s Office, PCATI concludes that the majority of the complaints of torture and ill-treatment were closed because the authorities denied the facts. Fifteen percent of the complaints were closed because they were categorized under the “defense of necessity” doctrine. In 1999 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the Shabak is not allowed to use physical means of interrogation that are aimed at tiring out or breaking the detainee. The Court did “not negate the possibility that the ‘necessity’ defense be available” to Shabak investigators and empowered the Attorney General to devise guidelines for such “ticking bomb” cases. PCATI writes that these guidelines – issued in 1999 – have served “as the basis for de facto approval of methods of interrogation amounting to torture and ill-treatment in such cases, thereby granting ISA interrogators blanket exemption from prosecution.”
However, the Convention against Torture does not recognize such a “defense of necessity doctrine”. The Convention is unequivocal in its absolute prohibition of torture.
In addition, the Human Rights Committee concluded in July 2010 that Israel “should ensure that all alleged cases of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officials, including police, personnel of the security service and the armed forces, are thoroughly and promptly investigated by an authority independent of any of these organs, that those found guilty are punished with sentences that are commensurate with the gravity of the offense, and that compensation is provided to the victims or their families.”
PCATI writes that following the publication of its first report on the topic – Accountability Denied – in 2009, there have been no substantive changes in Israel’s practices of torture and ill treatment. The closure of all 701 complaints of torture and ill-treatment by Palestinian detainees proves that the Israeli authorities protect the perpetrators. Meanwhile, Israel’s violations of Palestinian political prisoners’ rights continues. That is why the BDS Movement must keep Israel under pressure, and human rights organizations, social movements, activists and concerned citizens must call on their politicians, governments and embassies to intervene
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