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Testimony: O.O.M.H.


Name: O.O.M.H.
Age: 17
Date: 29 January 2021
Location: Balata camp, West Bank
Accusation: Weapon possession

On 29 January 2021, a 17-year-old minor from Balata refugee camp was arrested by Israeli soldiers at a nearby checkpoint at 7:00 p.m. and accused of weapon possession. He reports ill treatment and being denied his basic legal rights under Israeli military law. He reports spending 11 days in solitary confinement. He reports being released 25 days later and fined NIS 2,500. 

I was arrested at a nearby Israeli military checkpoint at around 7:00 p.m. I was walking with my friends when all of a sudden we were ambushed by a group of about 20 soldiers. One of the soldiers aimed his weapon at me and told me to stop. Then he grabbed me and pushed me to the ground. Then he tied my hands to the front with two plastic ties on top of each other. The ties were so tight that they cut into my wrists and I bled. After being tied for about five hours and I could not take the pain any more. I shouted at a soldier and showed him the cut in my wrist and asked him to remove the ties. He then replaced them with looser ones. 
The soldiers took me aside and one of them punched me in the stomach. Another one swore at me and called my mother and sisters "whores". Then the area commander came by and he also swore at me. Then I was blindfolded and taken to an area next to a shipping container where I sat on the ground for a short while and I got soaked because it was raining heavily. Then I was put in the shipping container where I was left for a bout five hours. 
After about five hours I was taken to the back of a military jeep where I sat on the metal floor. I was taken to Huwwara military base where I arrived at around midnight. I was given a Corona virus test, then I was strip searched before being taken to a small room with a tiny window where I spent the rest of the night. 
Later that morning I was driven to Petah Tikva interrogation centre, inside Israel. I was strip searched again before being taken to a tiny cell. The cell did not have any windows but had a mattress on the floor, a toilet and a sink. The light was turned off and I could not tell day from night. I begged the guard to turn the light on and he sometimes did. I spent 11 days solitary confinement in that cell and I was in deep distress. I spent the time worrying about my family not knowing what was happening to me. I found it impossible to sleep and the guard gave me some pills to help me calm down and fall sleep. I could not sleep without the pills. 
During the 11 days, I had one military court hearing which was conducted via video link without my parents. My detention was extended and the hearing was adjourned. 
On my seventh day in solitary confinement I lost my mind completely and was in despair. I felt I could do anything; like attack the guard. I started to bang my head against the rough walls until I bled. When the guard found out he called in some soldiers and they took me to the clinic. The doctor treated my wound and then I was handcuffed and shackled and taken to a room where I was tied to a chair for about three hours as punishment for hurting myself. 
After three hours I was taken to another room where they made me lie down and they shackled my legs to a side structure and my arms were handcuffed above my head and tied to a structure in a very painful position. I was left in that position, laying on my back for a whole day. I was not given any food or drink and I could not sleep. I banged my head against the wall above my head and I bled again. I screamed and shouted asking for sleeping pills and pleading with the guards to let me out but no one listened to me. The guard saw that I hurt myself on the CCTV camera. Later the guard came and took me to an interrogation room. 
Inside the interrogation room I was shackled and handcuffed to a chair. The interrogator did not allow me to consult with a lawyer and did not inform me of my right to silence. As soon as I entered the room he asked where I had hidden pieces of a weapon. When I denied possessing any weapons the interrogator shouted at me telling me to confess and thumped the table aggressively. He threatened to keep me in the cell in solitary confinement if I did not confess. 
I was questioned for about two hours while I was handcuffed and shackled to a chair. At the end of the interrogation he asked me to sign a document written in Hebrew but I refused to sign. He told me signing would be in my interests if I wanted to get out of the small cell. I asked him to translate the document for me but he refused to show me an Arabic version. After the interrogation I was taken back to the cell. 
The following day I was taken for another interrogation. It was the same interrogator and he did not inform me of my rights. He accused me of the same accusation and I continued to deny it. He questioned me for about an hour. He offered me a job to work with him as an informer; providing information on people from my village. When I refused the offer the interrogator became angry and thumped the table and shouted at me telling me to confess. At one point he brought in the other boy who was arrested with me. He did not ask me to sign any documents. After the interrogation I was taken back to the cell.
The following day I was questioned by an Israeli policeman. He phoned a lawyer for me before he started to question me. The lawyer told me to remain silent and not say a word. Then he told me to speak about things I had done but not more. He told me my file looked good but if I spoke more than necessary I would destroy my case. I felt reassured by the lawyer’s words.  The interrogator was listening to the conversation on speaker phone. 
Then the policeman told me I had the right to remain silent and then told me to repeat what I had said in the previous interrogations. While I spoke he typed on his computer. He asked me the same questions and I continued to deny the accusation. At the end he showed me a document written in Arabic and asked me to sign it. I signed after reading it. Then he took my photograph and then took me back to the cell.
After spending 11 days at Petah Tikva I was taken to the quarantine section Megiddo prison, inside Israel, where I was strip searched. I spent 17 days at the quarantine section. I found it very hard to sleep there because I was addicted to the sleeping pills I was given at Petah Tikva. 
In all I had about 15 military court hearings. At the last one, which was on the day of my release, I was told my family had paid NIS 2,500 and that I was going to be sent home. I think I was given a suspended sentence in addition to the fine but I do not know the details. 
I was released at Al Jalama checkpoint on 23 February 2021 and I went home with my parents. I arrived home in the evening. My mother did not have time to cook because she was waiting for me at the checkpoint all day. I was very tired and I went straight to bed. 
This testimony was produced with the financial support of the German Federal Foreign Office. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Military Court Watch.