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Child Prisoners Of The 'Holy' Land

By Eileen Fleming

14 September, 2007

“It would be better to drown these prisoners, in the Dead Sea if possible, since that’s the lowest point in the world.”-
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman

Since the beginning of the second Intifada in September 2000, over 4,000 Palestinian children have been arrested. [1]

A few of them can be viewed in a short excerpt from British ITV's expose of Palestinian children prisoners:

"According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted on 20 November 1989 and entered into force on 2 September 1990 (to which Israel is a signatory), and to relevant Israeli law, a child is defined as every human being under the age of 18 years." [2]

Palestinian children in prison are mistreated as badly as adults under Israeli military regulations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Palestinian children over twelve "may be charged and sentenced in military courts. Between the ages of 12-14, children can be sentenced for up to 6 months for minor offences, including throwing a stone. After the age of 14, Palestinian children are tried as adults, in violation of international law. There are no juvenile courts for Palestinian children. They also frequently serve their sentences in cells with adult prisoners, which is in violation of international law." [3]

"Palestinian children arrested from Israeli military checkpoints are often made to wait for hours at the checkpoint, with their hands cuffed, before they are transferred to detention and interrogation centers. More often than not, Palestinian child detainees are subject to beatings, curses and threats during the transfer. In most cases, their families are not informed of their arrest, with child prisoners additionally being transferred from one prison to another without informing the family. As a result, it often takes some time before a child detainee is located and the family informed of his/her location." [4]

Arrests are frequently made in raids in 'Holy' Land refugee camps in the middle of the night.

"Soldiers usually do not have a warrant for arrest or searches. The entire house is searched, often ransacked and personal property destroyed, occupants humiliated and harassed…Palestinian child prisoners are held in inhumane conditions of detention, made to live in overcrowded and filthy cells. Often, children are placed in small solitary confinement cells, measuring 1.5 square meters that are extremely humid and have no windows for natural light, or with bright artificial light that is continuously kept on. This forces prisoners to remain awake at all times, depriving the prisoner of sleep for days in some cases. Prisoners do not receive sufficient food to meet the daily nutrition requirements for children, are prevented from going to the toilet at their will, and are not allowed a change of clothing." [5]

These children are subjected to physical and psychological torture and interrogated without family or lawyers. The majority of confessions and sentences are related to throwing stones, such as at Caterpillar bulldozers that demolish Palestinian homes without compensation, in order to grab land for The Wall, that is NOT being built on the internationally recognized 1949 Green Line boundary between Israel and the West Bank, but on Palestinian owned land, and thus illegal under international law. [6]

"For the current generation, imprisonment is as common and conventional as attending university. This is not due to an extraordinary level of concentrated crime, but a result of Israel's strategic political and social methods of control. When put into context, the emphatic incarceration of Palestinian children reflects Israel's wider aims of controlling and weakening the OPT. Through a combination of military discourse and flexible definitions, Israel repeatedly flaunts international law, and uses the legal system as a veneer to legitimize its military practices, and in this way indirectly legitimize the occupation." [7]

On January 5, 2006 this reporter traveled to the Ramallah Headquarters of ADAMEER [Arabic for conscience] and learned from spokesperson, Ala Jaradat, "Since 1967, 650,000 to 700,000 Palestinians have been arrested and detained. That totals 20% of the total population and 80% of all adult Palestinian males have been arrested.

“Most of these arrests occur after midnight when large numbers of IDF storm into neighborhoods or refugee camps, horrifying everyone and arresting anyone 14 years or older. These arrests and detentions are based on military orders; we live under a kind of Marshall Law which rules every aspect of Palestinian life: where we live, our license plates that restrict our movement and limited voting rights. Under these military orders the Israeli government is free to hold anyone eight days without accusations or charges. They can hold anyone up to 180 days for interrogation and up to 60 days without benefit of a lawyer.

”The Israeli government never agreed to the Second Geneva Convention, the Knesset never ratified it, and when it comes to the Occupied Territories they totally ignore it. Israel is the only State that approved torture of detainees. I know there are dictators who use torture, but Israel is the only State that supported torture until 1999. That is when International, Israeli and Palestinian pressure groups forced the issue and Barack was confronted about it when he visited the United States.

“Any Palestinian under the age of 16 is tried as an adult, but for an Israeli Jew it is 18 years of age. Under 12 years old the child can be arrested but not detained. Over 12 they can be arrested, detained, interrogated, prosecuted and sentenced for throwing stones.

“Most of the Israeli Jews that are imprisoned are in for violent crimes against society and they are mixed in with the Palestinian population. The guards encourage them to do what ever they want to do against the Palestinian population. This is an open invitation by the Israeli government to incite violence and terror in the prison system. We have sworn affidavits from Palestinians claiming it was the guards who encouraged the violence inflicted upon them.

“In August 2004 the Palestinians went on a hunger strike to raise awareness of this problem and the Minister of Health who is responsible for them stated publicly: ‘Our hospitals are off limits to them; they can all starve themselves to death.’

“No human rights organizations are allowed access to the prisoners. Only lawyers and the Red Cross can visit them but have no access to the facilities where they are detained.

“The methods and photos from Abu Grahib and Guantanamo were no shock to any Palestinian who had been in prison between 1967 and the ‘80’s. All the methods used in Abu Grahib were normal procedures against Palestinians. In 1999 Internationals, Palestinians and Israelis for human rights threatened a boycott against Israel and that is what forced the Supreme Court to address the torture issue. They did not ban torture and the General Prosecutor can choose not to prosecute those who still use it."



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