By EA Hannah, Southern West Bank.
On November 29, I met Krandi Uwewe. At the age of 16, Krandi has just spent 45 days in prison. Whilst he was in prison, Krandi’s mother Basma told me, “this is the worst time”. She wasn’t able to contact Krandi since his arrest, and although his father attended two of the court hearings, they could not speak. Krandi did most of his time in Megiddo prison in Israel. According to the human rights organisation Defence for Children International (DCI), nearly 60% of Palestinian child detainees are transferred from occupied Palestine to prisons inside Israel in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The practical consequence of this is that many of them receive either limited or no family visits due to freedom of movement and permit restrictions.Krandi’s release came one-and-a-half months early as his family agreed to pay 1,500 shekels for his release. This is normal practice within the Israeli judicial system: 1,000 shekels shortens a prison sentence by one month. As another contact said to us, “this is a business, and is totally corrupt”.
This experience will stay with Krandi for the rest of his life, both psychologically and through long-term impacts on his life prospects: being on one of Israel’s ‘blacklists’ is likely to make it much more difficult for him to get a job and move around freely. On the morning we first met Krandi he reported that he had been detained for an hour at a checkpoint in the city centre for no reason.
International juvenile justice standards, which Israel has an obligation to implement after signing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, demand that children should only be deprived of their liberty as a measure of last resort.
According to the Palestinian prisoners support organisation Addameer, there were 400 Palestinian children in Israeli prisons at the same time as Krandi, an increase from 156 in late September. Alleged to have thrown stones, for which there is no evidence and he denies, Krandi was taken from his home to prison, and reports that he was beaten on route. “I was really scared in prison,” he said as he fiddled nervously when I spoke to him. DCI reports that 86% of Palestinian children endured some form of physical violence following arrest in the first half of 2015. Now, although he is out of prison, he admits that he is afraid of walking alone in the old city of Hebron.On November 3, the Israeli government passed a series of legal amendments which lengthened the sentence for stone throwers to a maximum of 20 years, reduced judicial discretion, and introduced other limitations.
Now imagine that you are a 16-year-old Israeli settler in the West Bank and you also throw a stone. The Israeli human rights organisation Yesh Din recently reported that 85% of investigations into Israeli citizens who harm Palestinians and their property are closed without any results. It is unlikely that you would receive any penalty.
These two concurrent legal systems – military law for Palestinians and civilian law for Israeli settlers in the West Bank – result in a serious disparity of treatment, as explored in a previous blog. DCI states that, “Israel is the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes [Palestinian] children in military courts that lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees”.
Furthermore, the British security company G4S provides security and equipment to many Israeli prisons including Megiddo. The UN contracts G4S to provide it with security services worth more than $22 million each year. In doing so, the UN is condoning the role that G4S plays in human rights violations committed by Israel.
The UK Parliament has just announced it is holding a debate on Wednesday, January 6th on “Child prisoners and detainees in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”. Please write to, call or email your MP urgently telling them of your concerns and asking that they attend and speak in this debate. You can find out who your MP is and how to contact them on the UK Parliament website.
You can also sign the petition from the Palestinian prisoner’s rights group Addameer calling on the UN to drop its contracts with G4S.