Ramallah, January 7, 2014—Israeli forces arrested 16 residents on Wednesday from at-Tabaqa village, west of Hebron, in the West Bank, including nine Palestinian children, some as young as 13, on suspicion of stone throwing.
Early Thursday morning, Israeli forces unconditionally released Hamza Yousef Hamdan, 14, Moath Awlad Mohammad, 13, and Ali Awlad Mohammad, 14. On Monday at Ofer military court, near Ramallah, an Israeli military judge rejected an Israeli police investigator’s request to further extend the detention of three of the other children.
DCI-Palestine’s lawyer, Iyad Misk, secured the release of Mahmoud Hakem Hraibat, 15, and Mohammad Jamil Hraibat, 14, on NIS 3,000 (US$855) bail for each and one week of house arrest, as well as the unconditional release of 15-year-old Qusai Kamel al-Atrash. Three children remain in Israeli custody and will appear before the military court on Thursday.
“The nature of these arrests suggests Israeli forces carried them out to intimidate residents of at-Tabaqa, including children,” said Misk of DCI-Palestine. “Israeli authorities must charge or immediately release the remaining three children and stop such arbitrary arrests.”
In a sworn testimony to DCI-Palestine, Ali Awlad Mohammad, 14, who was released the following day without charge, said an Israeli soldier showed him a photograph of two youths, and asked him to identify them to avoid arrest. When he refused, the soldier bound and blindfolded him, then shoved him into a military jeep along with the other children.
Israel is the only nation to automatically and systematically prosecute children in military courts that lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees. Around 500-700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12 years old, are arrested, detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military detention system each year. The majority of Palestinian child detainees are charged with throwing stones, and 74 percent experience physical violence during arrest, transfer or interrogation, according to evidence collected by Defense for Children International Palestine. No Israeli children come into contact with the military court system.
Palestinian children are not properly informed of their right to silence, are denied access to an attorney before and during interrogations, and are not accompanied by a parent during questioning.
In December, DCI-Palestine launched a “Know Your Rights” campaign for Palestinian children with partner, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR), focusing on empowering and educating Palestinian children to secure their basic rights while detained in the Israeli military detention system.
More than 5,000 “Know Your Rights” information cards will be distributed by the end of the campaign to Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 17 years old living in West Bank communities where children appear to be targeted by Israeli forces for arrest.
An easy to remember telephone number is included on the card so Palestinian children can contact a DCI-Palestine lawyer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, if they are allowed access to a telephone by Israeli authorities.