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Regulations for arresting minors

[9 December 2014] - On 30 June 2014, the regulations for arresting minors in the West Bank were made publicly available following the submission of a Freedom of Information (FOI) application by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). The guidelines apply to both the Israeli military and police operating in the West Bank. The regulations were only made available in Hebrew even though Arabic is designated as an official language of the State of Israel. An unofficial translation is also now available in English.

A “debriefing paper for commanders and soldiers” was also produced in response to the FOI application which notes the “special sensitivity” involved in arresting minors and continues: “International bodies and various human rights groups have criticized sharply, time and again, the way in which minors are treated in the Judea and Samaria area [sic] - from the stage of arrest, through the interrogation and up to the trial - and this criticism has increased significantly in the past year, being expressed by a sequence of reports, publications and articles in key international and Israeli media outlets. The cumulative weight of such reports and publications may inflict real harm on the legitimacy of Israel and its actions in the area.”
The regulations themselves include the following provisions:
  1. Confirmation that minors below the age of 12 cannot be legally arrested or indicted.
  2. At all stages of the arrest and transfer process to an interrogation centre, the commander of the force must ensure that the detainee’s dignity is upheld, including: 

     (i) The detainee must be held in reasonable conditions and sheltered from the elements; 

     (ii) The detainee must be provided with food, water, adequate clothing and access to toilets; and 

     (iii) The detainee must not be subjected to physical or verbal violence, or any other inappropriate behavior.

The debriefing paper to commanders and soldiers that accompanied the regulations also provides as follows:
  1. In view of the sensitivity of the issue of arresting minors, it is always appropriate to consider the possibility of serving them with a summons to an interrogation;
  2. There are no special procedures which apply only in the case of minors, and one has to follow the regular arrest procedures, but one also has to take note of the detainee’s age;
  3. In every case, one has to consider whether there is a security need in covering the eyes of a detainee, and do so only if the commander of the force believes that this is necessary for the protection of the accompanying forces or to prevent the detainee from escaping;
  4. One has to ensure more meticulously that the detainees be handcuffed according to the binding orders, that is - the detainee may be handcuffed only if the commander of the force believes that this is necessary for the protection of the accompanying forces or to prevent the detainee from escaping. The detainee will be handcuffed with three plastic cuffs, with both hands of the detainee being kept in front;
  5. In any case, it is strictly forbidden to use unnecessary physical or verbal violence against the detainee; and
  6. When a minor is arrested, it is the responsibility of the arresting force to fill out a form for the notification about a minor’s arrest and his interrogation, in two copies. One copy has to be delivered to a member of the detainee’s family while ensuring that he/ she sign to confirm the reception of the form.  
On 1 September 2014, MCW released a progress report based on a review of 105 sworn testimonies collected from children detained by the Israeli military in the West Bank in 2013 and 2014. The review found, inter alia, that:
  • 44 per cent of children continue to report being detained at night;
  • 67 per cent of summonses issued to children were served by the military after midnight;
  • More children than last year report being tied (96%) and blindfolded (88%) upon arrest;
  • More children than last year report being transported on the metal floor of vehicles (46%); and
  • More children than last year report being subjected to physical violence. 
MCW concluded that the assessment made by UNICEF in March 2013 that “the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process” remains valid in late 2014.