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Home » Public statements »

Reported Ill-Treatment - Update (Nov 2017)

[27 November 2017] - Following UNICEF's 2013 conclusion that the "ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized", Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it would study the UN agency's 38 recommendations and work to implement them through on-going co-operation with UNICEF. Of particular concern to UNICEF were reports of widespread physical abuse of children during the arrest, transfer and interrogation phases of their military detention.

In response to UNICEF's concerns the military's Legal Advisor for the West Bank issued a letter in May 2013 to the heads of all Brigades, Divisions, Police and Military Police operating in the West Bank reminding all units of existing standard operating procedures and policies in relation to the arrest of children. These standard operating procedures include a prohibition against "physical violence" or "any other inappropriate behaviour".
 
Since the publication of the UNICEF report in 2013, Military Court Watch (MCW) has collected 540 testimonies from children detained in the West Bank by the military authorities - representing approximately 14 percent of the total number of children (12-17 years) detained during this period. The evidence indicates that despite measures taken by the military during the intervening four-and-a-half years, the percentage of children reporting abuse has actually increased from 60 percent in 2013, to 64 percent in 2017. The types of abuse reported between January and September 2017 (70 testimonies) includes: slapping (51 percent); kicking (19 percent); punching (14 percent); beaten with objects (9 percent); pushed into objects (6 percent); and position abuse (1 percent).
 
It should be noted that the ill-treatment referred to above does not take place in isolation but within the context of: terrifying night arrests (63 percent of cases); hand tied for extended periods, sometimes described as "painful" or "very tight and painful" (93 percent of cases); blindfolded - a practice UNICEF recommends should be absolutely prohibited (79 percent of cases); threats and verbal abuse (61 and 41 percent of cases respectively); transfer to interrogation centres on the metal floor of military vehicles (56 percent of cases); and the denial of basic legal rights, such as the right to silence (denied in 84 percent of cases) and access to lawyers prior to interrogation (denied in 79 percent of cases). For further details see Comparative Graph - Issues of Concern (2013-2017)
 
In 2015 UNICEF published an update to its report in which it concluded that "reports of alleged ill-treatment of children during arrest, transfer, interrogation and detention have not significantly decreased in 2013 and 2014". Concerns over the ill-treatment of children held in Israeli military detention were also extensively covered in the most recent US State Department human rights report released in March 2017. As in previous years the State Department also noted that most Palestinian prisoners, including children, arrested by Israeli security forces in "the occupied territories were detained extraterritorially in Israel," in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
 
Recent evidence collected by MCW suggests that in spite of the military authority's co-operation with UNICEF regarding the implementation of the UN agency's recommendations and numerous developments during the past four-and-a-half years, there has been no appreciable reduction in the level of reported ill-treatment in the system. Further, a recent review conducted by MCW suggests that only one of UNICEF's 38 recommendations has been substantially implemented since 2013 - an implementation rate of just 2.6 percent.
 
MCW continues to advocate for the effective implementation of a number of practical measures that have been shown to significantly reduce ill-treatment, including:
  • Extensive use of summonses in lieu of night arrests eliminates transfer in military vehicles and the associated abuse;
     
  • Mandatory face-to-face consultations with lawyers prior to interrogation frequently result in investigations being closed at an early stage due to a lack of evidence; and
     
  • Mandatory audio-visual recording of all interrogations, with appropriate protocols in place, provides an independent record of proceedings.
 
Case studies (January to September 2017)
  1. On 9 January 2017, a 14-year-old boy was arrested by soldiers near his school at 9:30 a.m. following clashes. He reports being shot in the foot with a rubber bullet. He was painfully tied and blindfolded before being transported on the floor of a military vehicle to a settlement. He reports being left for 7 hours without food, water or access to a toilet. He reports being interrogated at 10:30 p.m. He was permitted to talk to a lawyer by phone before interrogation but reports that the interrogator told him that if he remained silent he would go to prison.
     
  2. On 1 February 2017, a 14-year-old boy was arrested by soldiers at home at 3:00 a.m. He reports no reasons or documents about the arrest were provided. He was hand tied with three plastic ties before transfer to the settlements of Karmi Zur and Etzion. He reports being interrogated at 9:00 a.m. for four hours while tied. About two hours into the interrogation he reports being shown a document informing him that he had the right to silence and the right to consult with a lawyer. He also reports being assaulted by the interrogator.
     
  3. On 15 March 2017, a 12-year-old boy was arrested by soldiers at 4:00 p.m. while on his way to play football. He reports his arm was fractured and he was punched during the arrest. He reports that soldiers refused to let him go or obtain medical treatment until he told them who was throwing stones. He reports that one soldier tried to calm him down and wiped the blood from his face. He was taken to Kiryat Arba settlement where he received medical attention. He was released without charge and transferred to a Palestinian ambulance that evening.
     
  4. On 24 April 2017, a 17-year-old boy was arrested at 2:30 am. Reports no reasons or documents about the arrest provided but told he would be "returned home after questioning". He reports being handcuffed (not painful) and blindfolded. Transferred to the settlements of Halamish and Binyamin. Reports sitting on a floor, cuffed and blindfolded, for 11 hours with food and toilet access. Consulted with a lawyer prior to interrogation and informed of right to silence. Transferred to a prison in Israel in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
     
  5. On 7 May 2017, a 16-year-old boy was arrested at 2:00 a.m. He reports that his father was given a document in Hebrew which they did not understand. Hand tied with a single plastic tie ("very tight and painful") and blindfolded. He reports villagers threw stones at the soldiers who then used him as a human shield for protection. Put in a shipping container until 8:00 a.m. then taken to Etzion settlement. Initially interrogated while tied and blindfolded. Not informed of legal rights. He reports being assaulted by the interrogator.
     
  6. On 4 June 2017, a 15-year-old boy was arrested at 5:00 a.m. Hands tied with two plastic ties which he reports were "very tight and painful". He complained but was ignored. He reports that he was deliberately pushed against a wall and into barbed wire. Verbally abused in a troop carrier and pushed onto the metal floor in a second vehicle. Transferred to Etzion settlement then Beit Jala where he reports being left outside until evening. Released without being questioned or charged at around 7:00 p.m. near the entrance to his village. 
     
  7. On 19 July 2017, a 16-year-old boy was arrested by soldiers at home at 2:00 a.m. He reports no reasons or documents about the arrest were provided. He was handcuffed behind his back which was "very tight and painful". He was also blindfolded. He was transferred on the floor of a military vehicle and reports being assaulted. He was taken to the settlement of Karmi Zur where he reports being verbally abused and kicked. He reports being interrogated at 8 a.m. in Etzion settlement without prior access to a lawyer or being informed of his right to silence.
     
  8. On 7 August 2017, a 15-year-old boy was arrested by soldiers at home at 2:30 a.m. The commander gave his father a document about the arrest. He reports being tied with one plastic tie which was "very tight and painful". He complained and a soldier loosened the tie. He was also blindfolded. At Etzion settlement he reports being made to stand in the hot sun for an extended period before fainting. He reports being verbally abused and assaulted. He was permitted to consult with a lawyer but was told by the interrogator that he had to confess.
     
  9. On 25 September 2017, a 14-year-old boy was arrested by soldiers in his bedroom at 2:30 a.m. He reports no reasons or documents about the arrest were provided. He reports being tied with three plastic ties which were "tight and painful". He was also blindfolded. He reports being interrogated at Etzion settlement without being informed of his legal rights and says he was assaulted by the interrogator. He reports confessing due to fear before signing a document written in Hebrew. Sentenced to two months in prison for stone throwing by a military court.
     
  10. See also written and video testimonies provided by former Israeli soldiers to Breaking the Silence.