Based on spurious charges or others too minor to matter, Israel arrests,
tortures, traumatizes, convicts, and detains hundreds of Palestinian
youths lawlessly. Many suffer lasting effects.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) discussed one case.
It reflects virtually all others. To protect the youth's identity, he's
called "Minor A," or simply "A."
Arrested on suspicion of stone-throwing, his ordeal included cruel and
usual treatment. In the middle of the night on January 23, 2011, 14-year
old "A" was arrested at home in Nabi Saleh village near Ramallah. It
followed a week earlier raid. At the time, no arrests were made.
"Massive numbers of armed security forces" were involved. He was detained
many hours under harsh conditions before transfer to police custody
for interrogation. During the time, he was terrorized, unable to sleep,
given no food or water, or allowed bathroom privileges.
Tired without sleep, interrogation began. "A's" basic rights applicable
to minors and all detainees were denied. They include due process, presence
of a parent or relative, as well as counsel, the right to remain silent,
and not forced to confess.
After interrogation, he was detained another four days, eight more at
the military prosecutor's request, then extended because his family
couldn't meet terms to release him under house arrest.
On January 30, he was indicted for stone-throwing, as well as organizing
and participating in an illegal demonstration without permit permission.
He was detained two months until granted house arrest with restrictions.
"A's" lawyer, Gaby Lasky, petitioned the military court to disqualify
his forced confession. He was denied. The military judge ruled that
confessions given police are admissible, even when rights are severely
violated and interrogation practices flawed. More on that below.
ACRI said the ruling "provides an unconventional interpretation of many
violations of the rights of minors in criminal proceedings, both on
the level of policy and legislation as well as on a practical level,
and at all stages of the process - from the arrest and detention through
the interrogation to the legal procedures in the military courts."
"A" participated regularly in nonviolent weekly Nabi Saleh demonstrations.
At issue is encroachment by Halamish the settlement on village land,
as well as harsh restrictions denying Palestinians access to their agricultural
property and al-Qus spring water rightfully theirs. It supplied the
village until lawlessly seized in 2006 for settlement use.
Flawed Interrogation and Trial Proceedings
Attorney Gaby Lasky called "A's" interrogation violent, intimidating,
demeaning, and illegal. It violated his basic rights and dignity. It
also forced him to confess involuntarily to alleged offenses he didn't
Under harsh conditions, he was denied food, water, and sleep. Afterwards,
he was interrogated abusively for long hours, isolated from counsel
and family, and not advised of his right to remain silent.
Despite her ruling, Judge Sharon Rivlin Ahai began her discussion of
his detention as follows:
"There is no dispute that in certain circumstances, the use of violence,
threats, or inappropriate treatment of the detainee immediately before
his interrogation could influence the free admission of his guilt."
She then criticized the military prosecutor for "regularly refraining
from bringing witnesses to counter the minor's claims related to how
the detention was handled."
Nonetheless, she refuted claims "that the manner in which ("A") was
detained affected his statement to the police." As a result, Lasky's
arguments were rejected.
Unlike Israeli civil law, Palestinian youths aren't explicitly given
access to counsel and family members. Yet Ahai considered the "spirit"
of Israel's Youth Law with regard to Palestinian defendants, saying:
It's impossible to ignore it "or the principles underlying the protection
of a minor's rights, even if he is suspected of committing offenses,
and dominance must be given to the supreme principle of the best interest
of the minor, as stated in the proposed law."
"Ultimately, a minor is a minor whether he lives in a place where Israeli
law applies in its entirely or in another place, where although Israeli
law does not fully apply, it is subject to the influence of the Israeli
She continued, saying:
"The police should try to uphold the obligation of allowing parents
to be present in the interrogation, even for a Palestinian minor who
lives in the region, as long as the conditions in the region permit
At the same time, she dismissed counsel's claim that "A's" interrogation
was flawed and lawless. She also claimed despite his ordeal, his physical
state wasn't reason for not proceeding with a substantive interrogation.
In weighing his rights v. police practices, she sided with authorities
no matter how abusive their procedures. She decided "not to render ("A's")
statement inadmissible. She merely "requested" flawed methods be "pass(ed)
on" to the appropriate authorities "so they will learn from (them),
draw lessons, and correct what should be repaired."
In other words, she ruled military interrogators and prosecutors violating
basic rights should remain self-regulating free from judicial oversight.
Even though "A's" interrogation defects were "serious," she held they
didn't "have a substantive effect on the manner in which (he) gave his
confession." As a result, she ruled it admissible.
Lessons Drawn from Her Ruling
Civil laws govern Israelis. Palestinians face military tribunal injustice
based on guilt by accusation. Virtually everyone charged is convicted
at trial or by plea bargains.
In 2009, a Military Youth Court was established. It raised the juvenile
age from 16 to 18. Military laws still harm minors. They lack provisions
protecting them in violation of international law.
As a result, youths are substantively harmed in criminal proceedings.
They have virtually no rights. They're treated like adults.
ACRI witnessed "many serious violation of the rights of Palestinian
minors at every stage of the criminal process stemming from improper
and unconstitutional practices of the security forces in how they treat
minors - the use of physical and verbal violence during arrests, intimidation
and threats, handcuffing and blindfolding of minors, and many other
practices that 'A's' arrest only partially illustrates."
Not only are abusive practices unconscionable "from a moral perspective,"
they also patently violate fundamental international law, notably with
regard to the rights of the child.
Israeli children get entirely different treatment. Civil law prohibits
imprisoning minors under age 14. In contrast, Palestinian youths young
as six are detained, terrorized, tortured and humiliated.
Only Jews have due process. Palestinian rights are entirely denied.
"A's" case alone demonstrates abusive treatment no legitimate judicial
process would allow.
Moreover, he and most other Palestinian children aren't charged with
robbery, assault, rape or murder. They're accused of allegedly throwing
stones. At worst, they're misdemeanors too minor to matter. Most often
they're innocent, but once accused, guilt is automatic. Intimidation,
torture and other abuse follow to force confessions.
ACRI also said "A's" case represents a flagrant violation of the right
of free expression and peaceful protest against repressive Israeli occupation.
In addition, it shows how Palestinians are abused under "unconstitutional
legal norms and improper tools and mechanisms for detention, interrogation,
and trial" proceedings. As a result, their fundamental rights are denied.
Moreover, Judge Ahai could have made a precedent-setting ruling based
on her own conclusion of cruel and abusive interrogation practices.
Instead, she held "A's" forced confession admissible, no matter how
As a result, she effectively green-lighted continued interrogation and
prosecutorial abuses no legitimate court would allow.
They're especially egregious when children are harmed, and, in many
cases, left permanently scared. That's a system no one should tolerate.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge
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