Newsletter - July 2013
Detention figures – According to the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), as of 30 June, there were 4,827 Palestinians held in Israeli detention facilities including 193 children. In the case of children, this represents a monthly decrease of 13.5 percent compared with May of this year. However, there has been an annual increase of 13.8 percent in the average number of children detained compared with 2012. According to the IPS, 53 percent of children, and 87 percent of adults were detained in facilities inside Israel, in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits their transfer out of the West Bank. Read more
Testimony from a 15-year-old boy - On 6 June 2013, a 15-year-old boy from Beit Ummar, in the West Bank, was arrested by Israeli soldiers whilst helping his family plow their agricultural land. “I was helping my family plough our land when at around 6:00 p.m. I saw Israeli soldiers in the area, so I went to see what was going on. Clashes were taking place between people from our village and the soldiers. Suddenly three soldiers started running towards me. I was scared of them so I ran away. They kept running after me until I fell on the ground and they caught me. They beat me on my leg and kicked me in the stomach. I was in severe pain. The soldiers then blindfolded me and dragged me to a nearby military vehicle and pushed me inside.” Read more
Military justice – paying lip service to the rule of law – On 15 July, an Israeli military court judge handed down a verdict in the case of a 15 year-old Palestinian boy accused of throwing stones at Israeli cars during a demonstration in the West Bank. Nery Ramati, a lawyer with Gaby Lasky and Partners, represented the boy in Ofer Military Court. In his written decision, Judge Major Shahar Greenburg was highly critical of the manner in which Sergeant Major Solomon Desta, an Israeli police investigator stationed in Hebron, conducted the investigation, but nevertheless sentenced the boy to nine months imprisonment. Read more
Detaining children below the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) – On 9 July, B’Tselem reported that Israeli soldiers detained a five-year-old boy in Hebron on suspicion of throwing a stone at a car driven by an Israeli settler. The boy was held for several hours and was accompanied for most of the time by his father. For some unexplained reason the soldiers tied and blindfolded the father and both were held at a checkpoint for several hours before being handed over to Palestinian police. The MACR under Israeli military law is 12 years. Children below this age who are suspected of an offence should not be arrested and cannot be prosecuted. In the circumstances the soldiers were entitled to speak to the father about his son’s alleged conduct but there is no obvious justification for holding both father and son for two hours, or tying and blindfolding the father. As confirmed in testimonies provided by former Israeli soldiers to Breaking the Silence, age is no guarantee of protection when encountering the military.
Is the UK Government fulfilling its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect to G4S? – Each month over 50 percent of children and over 80 percent of adult Palestinian detainees are held in Israeli Prison Service (IPS) facilities inside Israel. This is significant because under Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention none of these detainees should be transferred or detained outside the West Bank. Into this regulated legal arena has stumbled the UK/Danish security company, G4S, which has entered into a number of commercial contracts with the IPS to provide goods and services to prisons located in Israel and the West Bank. This set of facts potentially exposes the directors of G4S to criminal prosecution, but is the UK Government doing enough to investigate what is possibly a “grave breach” of the Convention by UK citizens, and are the explanations given in Parliament satisfactory? Read more
News – Political – Netherlands - On 25 June there was a debate in the Dutch parliament concerning the treatment of children held in Israeli military detention. In the absence of the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Defence, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, responded on behalf of the Government. The Minister agreed to include in a letter to the Israeli Government the parliament's concerns that children continue to be arrested at night and that independent oversight during interrogation should be provided by the presence of a lawyer, a parent of the child and the audio-visual recording of all interrogations. Concern was also expressed during the debate that in spite of regular dialogue with the Israeli authorities concerning possible human rights violations, Israel appears to be simply ignoring its international legal obligations.
News - Political - US – On 12 July, a question was raised during the State Department’s daily briefing about the arrest of a five-year-old Palestinian boy by Israeli soldiers in Hebron on 9 July. The spokesperson for the State Department had no specific information about the case but referred to the Country Report on Human Rights Practices in which the issue of Palestinian child detention was raised in detail. Read more
News - Political - UK - On 14 July, the UK Foreign Secretary was asked in a parliamentary question what assessment he had made of the legal obligations of the UK Government under Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention with regards to investigating (a) the corporate entity of G4S plc for aiding and abetting breaches of the Convention in the transfer of detainees from the West Bank. Alistair Burt, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, responded on behalf of the Government. Read More
News – Media – The manner in which Israeli police interrogate Palestinian children came under scrutiny in a report published in Haaretz – No lawyers, no Arabic speakers: IDF court judge condemns Israel police interrogations of Palestinian minors. Read more
Photo: Youth arrested by undercover Israeli forces at Qalandiya, West Bank - by Sylvie Le Clezio