Israeli forces arrest a Palestinian youth in the Jabel Mukaber neighbourhood of East Jerusalem on September 18, 2015. (Photo: AFP / Ahmad Gharabli)
Ramallah, February 12, 2016–Israeli authorities held a Palestinian teenage boy from East Jerusalem in solitary confinement for 22 days in December, and are now detaining him without charge.
Israeli forces arrested Mohammad Nadi Hamda Hashlamoun, 17, from his home in the Ras al-Amoud neighborhood of Jerusalem around 2 a.m. on December 3. He was held in solitary confinement for 22 days, denied access to an attorney, and subjected to repeated prolonged interrogation sessions. He was accused of planning to carry out unspecified future attacks, which he denied. Hashlamoun appeared in the Jerusalem Magistrates Court where the judge ordered he be released on bail. Before his family could pay, Israeli authorities approved a six-month administrative detention order that expires on June 20, 2016.
“Using solitary confinement in this way is conduct that amounts to torture under international law,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP). “It is deeply disturbing that Israeli authorities first tortured this boy and have now approved his further detention without charge. Administrative detention must never be used as a substitute for criminal prosecution where there is insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.”
At Mascobiyya interrogation and detention center in Jerusalem, Hashlamoun was shuffled back and forth from isolation to prolonged interrogation sessions. “They would take me out of the cell in the morning and keep me tied to a low metal chair in the interrogation room for several hours,” Hashlamoun told DCIP in a sworn testimony. “The interrogator threatened to withdraw my Jerusalem identification card and demolish my family’s house.”
“One day they brought my mother and her father to the interrogation room and interrogated them in front of me,” said Hashlamoun. “They made me sit behind a glass partition, and I saw my mother and my grandfather, but they could not see me. They interrogated them for at least two hours and said they would have them arrested if I did not confess, but I never confessed.”
Palestinian children held in solitary confinement are subjected to repeated and prolonged interrogations, with the apparent purpose of obtaining a confession. Interrogations are typically threatening and lengthy, and child detainees are vulnerable to torture, abuse, and other forms of violence.
Between 2012 and 2015, DCIP documented 66 cases involving the solitary confinement of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system. Evidence and documentation collected by DCIP overwhelmingly suggests that the use of isolation for Palestinian child detainees is solely for interrogation purposes to obtain a confession and/or gather intelligence or information on other individuals.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has asserted that when “used intentionally during pretrial detention as a technique for the purpose of obtaining information or a confession,” solitary confinement amounts to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
At the end of 2015, Israeli forces held six Palestinian children in administrative detention. In October 2015, Israeli authorities renewed the use of administrative detention for Palestinian children for the first time in nearly four years.
Administrative detention is a procedure whereby a person is detained without charge or trial, by order of a military commander or other government official, often renewable indefinitely. The Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that “no child should be deprived of his or her liberty arbitrarily and detention should only be used as a measure of last resort for the shortest appropriate period of time.”
In Jerusalem, Israeli authorities rely on Israel’s Emergency Powers Law to authorize the use of administrative detention. In the occupied West Bank, where military law applies to the Palestinian population only, Israeli Military Order 1651 permits administrative detention for a period of up to six months, subject to indefinite renewals.
Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes between 500 and 700 children in military courts each year. Ill-treatment in the Israeli military detention system is widespread, systematic, and institutionalized with three out of four Palestinian child detainees experiencing physical violence during arrest or interrogation.