B’Tselem’s new report details the systematic violations of Palestinian minors’ rights when they are detained, interrogated, tried and convicted by the Israeli military authorities that govern the West Bank.
Minors are granted special protection under international and indeed, Israeli law, on the basis that the experience of arrest and legal proceedings marks them in more profound ways than adults.
The International Convention on the Rights of the Child stresses that arrest, detention or imprisonment is to be a last resort; if they are to be detained, then their rights to education, contact with family, and to be treated with respect must be guaranteed.
In practice, as numerous previous reports have detailed, the Israeli authorities violate minors’ rights in a systematic manner.
Head of the legal department at HaMoked, Daniel Shenhar described the situation to Palestine Monitor as “dismal”.
As the B’Tselem report and Shenhar detailed, from the moment of the minor’s arrest – often in the middle of the night – the primary objective of the Israeli authorities is to extract a confession.
In order to extract the desired confession, the authorities employ a variety of tactics. Military forces arrive in the middle of the night, “taking them away from their beds, before the eyes of their families and taking them in pyjamas,” Shenhar told Palestine Monitor.
The transfer to the interrogation centre is often brutal, involving insults, humiliation routines and even physical violence.
“Then they arrive at the police station, tired and frustrated, they’re not given any food and drink: they’re just shackled, blindfolded, and then they sit and wait,” Shenhar said.
It is in the aftermath of this treatment that the interrogation starts, with the minor under considerable physical and mental strain. Authorities often resort to manipulation and violence; “in these circumstances it’s almost impossible not to confess,” Shenhar said.
Once a confession has been extracted, minors then appear before the 'Military Juvenile Court of Judea,’ established in 2009 specifically to treat accusations brought against minors.
In their report, B’Tselem note: “same judge, same courtroom, same process, same bottom line – just a different heading.” Conviction rate verges on 100%, as the grand majority of cases end with a plea bargain.
Such was the case with Ahed Tamimi. Indeed, as minors are almost always held in detention whilst awaiting trial – in violation of the presumption of innocence – their priority is regaining their freedom as quickly as possible.
Shenhar explained that this rendered legal action difficult, as, understandably, “the minors do not want to be at the forefront of a legal battle.”
In recent years, increased attention has been payed to the mistreatment of minors at the hands of Israeli authorities.
In response to accusations, Israeli authorities have implemented some measures – including the creation of the Juvenile court – which the B’tselem report describes as “lip-service”.
“This façade does nothing to safeguard human rights. Its sole purpose is to legitimize the regime of occupation,” the report concludes.
By Elizabeth Jenkins
April 09, 2018