Child arrest and detention

By former EA Alison, following a conversation with ‘Ahmed’. ‘Ahmed’ is a pseudonym and, for his protection, we have not included any photographs.

Ahmed (15) had gone to a friend’s house to play soccer. At around 1.00pm, three soldiers ran towards them, shouting that the boys had thrown stones at some other soldiers earlier. The soldiers hit them with their hands and their guns.

Ahmed and his friend were dragged to a jeep. Their hands were tied with plastic ties, so tightly that Ahmed’s hands became very swollen. His feet were also tied for part of the time, and he was blindfolded.

The boys were taken to an internment camp for questioning.

Ahmed asked for a lawyer but was refused one. He was told “No, you can’t” loudly and angrily. He says they were shouted at and hit a lot at the camp, sometimes slapped on the face. A soldier told them “We are the law. We can do anything.”

The boys were questioned separately. Each was told that if he admitted to throwing stones he could go home.  Ahmed said he did not throw stones; his friend professed to have done but neither was allowed home. They were kept at the camp until around 9.00pm, and were made to kneel on the concrete floor; Ahmed’s back hurt and his knees become swollen and bruised.

That evening they were taken to Binyamin police station, where they were interrogated till 1.00am. The blindfolds were removed but their hands remained tied.

Ahmed’s father found out by chance and stayed at the police station till 1.00am, but he was not allowed to see his son. The police did not hit the boys but on one occasion a wooden box was thrown at Ahmed. The police shouted at them – “Why are you lying?” – and said that they had photos, but these were not produced.

The following day they were taken to Ofer prison. At his sixth court hearing, Ahmed was sentenced to: six weeks’ imprisonment, a ₪5,000 fine and three years’ probation. Ahmed served his sentence with adults at Megiddo prison in Israel.

Books were available in prison, but not education. A teacher who had been imprisoned long-term provided some lessons.

Ahmed’s family sent clothes to him in prison; they went to the building but did not get to him. Other prisoners lent him clothes.

While incarcerated, Ahmed met other children. Some told him they had sustained injuries to eyes and limbs as a result of being punched or shot. Ahmed met an 8-year-old who was released after two weeks. He also met some prisoners aged 11.

Asked how he stayed strong, Ahmed said he prayed.

“Approximately 700 Palestinian children [and young people] under the age of 18 from the occupied West Bank are prosecuted every year through Israeli military courts after being arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli army.” (Adameer, the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, February 2016)

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Israel in 1991, applies to people under 18 years of age. Article 37 states that the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child may be used “only as a measure of last resort” and that “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. It also establishes a right to “prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance”.

Israeli military law allows for the arrest and detention of children as young as 12. According to an Adameer spokesperson, the experience of arrest and detention can have a long-term impact for a child or young person. They suffer more anxiety, fear, bedwetting, difficulties socialising, inability to return to school, and waking in the night fearing raids. It has an enormous impact on the whole family.

Further reading:

Chapter 5 of No Way to Treat a Child from Defense for Children International.

The Amira Hass article in Haaretz, ‘Most Palestinian Minors Arrested by Israel Claim Physical Violence During Detention’ (http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.780996, Haaretz subscription required).