25 October 2010

EU Parliament reviews prison conditions inside Israel

On 25 October 2010, the EU Parliament’s Sub-Committee on Human Rights will review prison conditions in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In advance of the hearing, DCI-Palestine has lodged a submission relating to conditions faced by Palestinian child detainees held in Israeli interrogation and detention facilities and prisons.

DCI-Palestine’s submission to the Sub-Committee provides evidence of ill-treatment and torture during the initial stages of detention, and also includes:

  • Information that 58 percent of Palestinian child detainees are being held inside Israel, in contravention of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention;
  • Information indicating that as many as 42.5 percent of child detainees are not adequately separated from adult prisoners;
  • Evidence that 55 percent of Palestinian child detainees complain of inadequate food, water or shelter;
  • Information suggesting that most Palestinian child detainees do not receive family visits during the first three months of their detention, and no Palestinian child detainees are permitted to maintain telephone communication with their families;
  • Evidence that Palestinian child detainees receive inadequate education services inside prison, and in some cases, no education at all; and
  • Evidence that children held in the Al Jalame Interrogation and Detention Centre near Haifa, are routinely subjected to serious mistreatment, including position abuse, sleep depravation and solitary confinement.

DCI-Palestine continues to demand that all interrogations of Palestinian child detainees be audio-visually recorded, and no Palestinian child is detained inside Israel, in contravention of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. (Defence for Children International)

Ill-treatment | Percentage
Hand ties 97%
Blindfolding 92%
Confession during interrogation 81%
Beaten or kicked 69%
Arrested between midnight and 4am 65%
Verbal abuse 50%
Threats or inducements 49%
Signed confession in Hebrew 32%
Position abuse 26%
Solitary confinement 14%
Threat of sexual assault 12%
Sexual assault 4%

Conditions of detention – Sample of 100 cases from 2009:
-Inadequate food, water or shelter 55%
-Strip searched 22%
-Denial of toilet facilities 21%

Sample of 100 cases from 2009:
Denial of adequate medical treatment 17 (17%)

Case Study No. 1

Name: A.
Date of incident: 26 May 2010
Age: 14 years
Accusation: Throwing stones

On 26 May 2010, a 14-year-old boy from the village of Beit Ummar, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, is arrested by Israeli soldiers at around 1:30am and accused of throwing stones.

Fourteen-year-old A. was arrested by heavily armed soldiers at 1:30am, tied and blindfolded, and transferred to the Israeli settlement of Gush Etzion, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. A. reports being beaten with an assault rifle whilst in the jeep after asking for his hand ties to be loosened. At some point after arrival at the settlement, A. was interrogated by, he thinks, an Israeli policeman.

"At around 10:00 or 10:30am, I was taken to the interrogation room,' recalls A. "The plastic ties were replaced with handcuffs. "Sit down on the floor," ordered the interrogator. I was still blindfolded. "Don't you want to tell me who threw stones with you?" he asked me. "I didn't throw any stones and I don't know who threw stones either," I said to him. "You're a liar, motherf**cker," he said, and kicked me hard in the back.' The interrogator then left the room and returned five minutes later with what A. believes were car battery jump leads. "He placed one end on my handcuffs and the other end on my penis and I felt great pain and started screaming. He said "I want you to confess or otherwise I will plug in the cable and you will never have children." Initially A. refused to confess but the interrogator kicked him in the back several times and placed his foot on his handcuffs. "I confessed to throwing stones a few weeks before as well as two years ago. I confessed because I didn't want to be tortured all over again.'

On 1 June 2010, after two appearances in Ofer Military Court and one appeal, A. was released on bail of NIS 500 (US$140) and two guarantees of NIS 20,000 (US$5,500) from his father and uncle. A. has not been charged with any offence.

Case Study No. 2

Name: Nehad O.
Date of incident: 14 June 2010
Age: 14 years
Charge: Throwing stones

On 14 June 2010, a 14-year-old boy from Balata refugee camp, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, is arrested by Israeli soldiers at around 5:00am and accused of throwing stones.

Nehad was arrested by soldiers on his way to work and accused of throwing stone. The soldiers transferred to Nehad to Huwwara Interrogation and Detention Centre, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

"When we reached the centre, soldiers pulled us out of the jeep and took Ahmad to a detention room and kept me sitting in the yard for about 36 hours, during which time they didn't allow me to sleep at all and they provided me with food and water only once. They also allowed me to use the bathroom once but it wasn't a usual bathroom. I had to urinate behind a concrete wall. During the entire 36 hours, I was still tied with my hands behind my back with plastic cords and blindfolded. I was sitting in the burning sun. Whenever I fell asleep, I would close my eyes a little because of the burning sun but one of the soldiers would push me hard and shout; "Don't sleep.°

Case Study No. 3

Name: Jihad A.
Date of incident: 29 April 2010
Age: 16 years
Charge: Throwing stones and Molotov cocktails

On 29 April 2010, a 16-year-old boy from Salfit, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, was arrested by soldiers from the family home at 1:00am.

Jihad is detained in Megiddo prison, inside Israel. "I was brought here on 13 May,' says Jihad. "They allowed me a family visit on 10 August, three months later. I am entitled to a family visit every two weeks, but my right was denied to me for unknown reasons. I asked around but they told me it was for "confidential reasons." I still don't know what the reasons are. My second family visit was supposed to be on 24 August, but my family didn't show up. One of the other detainees from my village was told by his family that the Red Cross had called my mother and informed her that they are not allowed to visit me. I still don't know why they don't allow my family visits. I don't know the news of my family, my friends and my school because my family visits are denied. I feel that there is a huge gap between me and them because of a lack of communication. I am losing so many details that I consider to be very important to know.'

Case Study No. 4

Name: Malek O.
Date of incident: 11 February 2010
Age: 14 years
Charge: Throwing stones and Molotov cocktails

On 11 February 2010, an 11-year-old boy from the Al Jalazun refugee camp, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, is arrested by soldiers from the family home at 2:15am.

Malek is detained in Rimonim prison, inside Israel. "The subjects we study are only Maths, Arabic, English and Hebrew. Each class lasts two hours. We take two classes; four hours per day. There are 16 to 17 children in the class, aged between 14 and 17 years. We are provided with textbooks, notebooks and stationery but every teacher takes them away from us at the end of each class and brings them back at the beginning of the following class and so on. The level of education inside prison is good but ordinary education is much better because you can have your textbooks with you and you are given homework. This is not the case in prison. Sometimes textbooks are not available and teachers have to write on the board and we copy down the material on our notebooks.'

Case Study No. 5

Name: Baha M.
Date of incident: 7 April 2009
Age: 16 years
Charge: Unknown

On 7 April 2010, a 16-year-old boy from the Balata refugee camp, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, is arrested by Israeli soldiers from the family home at 1:00am.

Around 20 Israeli soldiers stormed Baha’s home at 1:00am and took the 16-year-old outside. "I could barely breathe,' recalls Baha, "as I have asthma. I did not have my inhaler with me. I began screaming. I asked the officer to let my family bring me the inhaler and my shoes, but he shouted at me and began forcibly dragging me for about 15 metres.' Baha was tied and blindfolded and placed inside a military vehicle where he was beaten violently about the head. He was then transferred to Huwwara Interrogation and Detention Centre in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and then transferred to Petah Tikva, inside Israel, at around 4:30pm.

On arrival at Petah Tikva, Baha was taken to see a doctor. "I complained to him about my breathing difficulties and asked him to give me an inhaler,' says Baha. "The doctor refused to give me an inhaler. The first time I was provided with an inhaler was when they transferred me to Megiddo prison, a long time after my arrest.'

Case Study No. 6

Name: Mohammad M.

Date of incident: 10 June 2010
Age: 16 years
Accusation: Starting a fire near a settlement

On 1 July 2010, two 16-year-old boys are released without charge after spending 22 days in Israeli interrogation and detention centres. The boys were held in solitary confinement for six days inside Israel.

Mohammad was woken at 2:00am by somebody shouting "army, army' in Hebrew. "At that point I realised that Israeli soldiers had come to our house, which is the nearest house in the village to the settlement of Yizhar, which is built on lands taken from the village,' says Mohammad. The family exited the house and after a brief discussion, Mohammad’s hands were tied behind his back with a plastic tie and he was blindfolded. Mohammad was terrified and started to cry. "Don't be afraid, be a man, stop crying,' called out his father.

Mohammad and his friend, Fadi were first taken to Huwwara and Salem interrogation and detention centres in the north of the West Bank, where they were held for around eight days and taken briefly before a military court. During this time, Mohammad was interrogated by a man who called himself ‘Jihad’ who accused him of starting a fire which had spread up the hillside from the village and threatened the settlement of Yizhar – "he accused me of starting the fire and threatened to shock me with electricity if I didn't confess to what he wanted me to confess,' recalls Mohammad. Fadi was similarly threatened, but was also told that "if you don't confess, we'll accuse you of having a hunting gun, and detain you on weapon possession and stone-throwing.' Mohammad also recalls signing some papers but without knowing their contents.

On 17 June the boys were taken before Salem Military Court and their detention was extended for a further eight days. The boys’ parents were present in court but the soldiers prevented them from talking. On 21 June, soldiers came and handcuffed the boys and shackled their feet together before transferring them to Petah Tikva, an interrogation centre and prison inside Israel, located near Tel Aviv. On arrival at Petah Tikva, Mohammad was again interrogated by a man who called himself ‘Nirva’ or ‘Durva’ – "Who started the fire on the mountain?' Mohammad recalls being asked, "not me,' replied Mohammad, "I was at school sitting an exam and after that I went with my friends to buy some food and I didn't know anything about the fire.' The fact that Mohammad was at school sitting an exam when the fire started is confirmed by his mother.

It was whilst in Petah Tikva, that both boys were placed in solitary confinement for six days. "He told me that on the sixth day in solitary confinement he began to bang on the door and to scream and shout, begging the guards to take him back to the other cell to be with other prisoners,' recalls Khadra, Mohammad’s mother, who describes her son as a very sociable boy who is always surrounded by children his own age and younger. "The guards shouted back at him, cursed him and showed no sympathy. He was on his own for six days; he didn't see anyone and didn't talk to anyone. He was in a small room with a mattress on the floor and two blankets. He didn't have a pillow. The room didn't have any windows and he couldn't tell whether it was day or night. The guards kept the lights on the whole time and he had difficulty falling asleep. He told me he hung his underwear on the light bulb to make it dimmer in order to fall asleep. They gave him prison clothes that were too big for him, and the trousers kept falling off. He had no idea how long he was going to be there and that alone made him loose his mind.'

On 1 July 2010, without prior notice, Israeli soldiers dropped the two boys off at a checkpoint far from home at 8:30pm and told them to "go home.' "I cannot believe he has been released,' says Khadra, "but he is not the same boy anymore. He has changed a lot. He spends hours alone, gazing and doing nothing. He does not eat with us and spends a lot of time sleeping.' Mohammad and Fadi were never charged with any offence.

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