Most children are handed over to the Israeli police for interrogation. The interrogations are conducted in military bases or police stations inside settlements in the West Bank. Currently, most children are interrogated in police stations in Gush Etzion, Binyamin and Ari’el settlements, but other police stations and military bases are also used. In cases where children are accused of more serious offences they may be transferred to interrogation centres operated by the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) ("Shabak" or "Shin Bet") inside Israel, either in Jerusalem (Al Mascobiyya), Haifa (Al Jalame) or near Tel Aviv (Petah Tikva).
On arrival at the centre the army will hand the child over to the police who will generally start the interrogation immediately. Questioning will normally take place before the child can rest, take refreshments or see a lawyer. The child will be led into an interrogation room, still tied and blindfolded, and made to sit on a chair. His blindfold will be removed but many children remain tied throughout the questioning process. Under Israeli military law the child should be informed of the right to consult with a lawyer
prior to questioning but is not entitled to have a parent
, or other responsible adult, accompany him throughout the process, although there is a discretion
to permit this to occur. In the overwhelming majority of cases the child will be alone when questioned by the interrogator and will not have the benefit of legal advice. Although Israeli military law provides that no one is obliged to incriminate him or herself, few children are informed that they have the right to remain silent
before being questioned. There is no legal requirement for the interrogations to be audio-visually recorded in "security offences" as a practical means of providing independent oversight.
Interrogations tend to be verbally
, and often physically
, coercive. The process will begin with a general accusation, such as "why do you throw stones at Israelis?" If the accusation is denied, as is often the case, the interrogator will resort to a mixture of intimidation and threats
. The types of threats used include:
- Long-term imprisonment;
- Physical violence; and
- Threats against other family members.
In a relatively small number of cases children have also been threatened with sexual assault, solitary confinement, electric shocks and death. In cases where intimidation and threats fail to illicit a confession, the interrogation will then become physical. The types of physical violence used include:
- Maintaining stress positions for extended periods; and
- Pushing, punching, slapping and kicking.
In a minority of cases children are also held in solitary confinement for extended periods of time in cells where the lights are left on 24 hours a day. This technique most commonly occurs at the ISA operated facilities in Al Mascobiyya, Petah Tikva
and Al Jalame
. According to UNICEF, in 2015 a total of 13 children were held in solitary confinement for periods of time ranging from 4 to 45 days.
Another technique employed by interrogators is to pressure children to inform on others from their village. Attempts are also made to recruit children as regular informers for the army - a practice that is prohibited under international law. In the majority of cases children provide the authorities with confessions at the conclusion of the interrogation process. In approximately one-third of cases, children are shown, or made to sign, documentation written in Hebrew, a language few Palestinian children understand.
According to an expert psychiatric opinion
provided to Physicians for Human Rights by Dr. Graciela Carmon M.D., the manner in which these children are arrested and interrogated “deeply undermines the dignity and personality of the child or adolescent, and inflicts pain and severe mental suffering. Uncertainty and helplessness are situations that can too easily lead a child or adolescent to provide the requested confession, out of impulsivity, fear or submission. It is a decision that is far from free.”
Updated: August 2016