Israel increasing use of administrative detention against Palestinian children

Feb 26, 2016
Israeli forces stop and search a Palestinian boy at the entrance of Damascus Gate, outside Jerusalem's Old City, on February 19, 2016. (Photo: AFP / Ahmad Gharabli)

Ramallah, February 26, 2016Israeli authorities filed charges against a Palestinian teenage boy on January 26 after holding him without charge for three months.

Israeli forces summoned Basir Mohammad Al-Atrash, 17, from the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, on October 28 to appear for questioning at the Israeli military district coordination office in Hebron. He appeared the following day as requested and was promptly taken into custody and transported to Israel’s Ofer prison. Basir was interrogated on October 30 and was denied access to an attorney. The interrogator accused Basir of stone throwing and incitement on social media, allegations that he denied.

Following interrogation, he was informed that Israeli authorities issued a three-month administrative detention order against him expiring on January 28. Two days before the order expired, the Israeli military prosecutor filed charges against Basir related to his alleged manufacturing and throwing of Molotov cocktails at an Israeli military checkpoint.

“The increasing number of Palestinian children held pursuant to administrative detention orders is deeply concerning,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at Defense for Children International – Palestine. “The use of administrative detention orders by Israeli authorities to arbitrarily detain Palestinian children must stop immediately.”

After his interrogation on October 30, Israeli soldiers detained Basir in an outdoor metal cage with five adult detainees. He was taken back to Ofer prison’s juvenile section around 6 p.m., and the jailer informed him that he would  be held under administrative detention until January 28, 2016.

Basir first met with a lawyer when he appeared before a military court, about a week after his arrest. His next scheduled military court appearance is March 2.

Administrative detention is a procedure whereby a person is detained without charge or trial, by order of a military commander or other government officials, often renewable indefinitely.

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. Two additional cases have occurred since January 2016.

The most recent case involves Abdul-Rahman Kmaill, 15, from Jenin. Israeli forces arrested Abdul-Rahman from his home around 3:30 a.m. on February 4. He was subjected to one interrogation session on February 7. Abdul-Rahman told DCIP in a sworn testimony that he was questioned about his previous arrest by Palestinian security forces and whether he had thrown stones.

Israeli authorities issued  a six-month administrative detention order against Abdul-Rahman on February 11. On February 16, a military judge at Ofer military court reduced the period to four months.

On January 6, around 3 a.m., Israeli forces arrested Ibrahim Sati Sawafta, 17, from his house in Tubas. Israeli soldiers transferred Ibrahim to Huwara military camp and later on to Megiddo prison inside Israel.

Ibrahim appeared in Salem military court the next day, where the military court extended his detention for one week to continue interrogation. During this week, he was subjected to only one session of interrogation that lasted nearly 40 minutes. During interrogation, he was not properly informed of his rights and was denied access to a lawyer.

“The interrogator did not accuse me of anything specific, he just asked general questions,” Ibrahim told DCIP. “When I asked him about the reason for my detention he shouted and told me that I would be held for a long time in prison,” Ibrahim told DCIP.

On January 13, Israeli authorities issued a four-month administrative detention order against Ibrahim, which was shortened to three months later that week.

On December 3, Israeli forces arrested Mohammad Hashlamoun, 17, from his home in the Ras al-Amoud neighborhood of Jerusalem around 2 a.m. 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. Israeli authorities recently approved a six-month administrative detention order that expires on June 20, 2016.

In the occupied West Bank, where the military law applies to the Palestinian population only, Israeli Military Order 1651 permits administrative detention for up to six months, subject to indefinite renewals. Prior to October 2015, Israel had not held a Palestinian child from the West Bank under administrative detention since December 2011.

Israeli authorities rely on the Emergency Powers Law to authorize the use of administrative detention in Jerusalem. According to DCIP documentation dating back to 2000, Jerusalem minors have not previously been subject to administrative detention.

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 that lack fundamental fair trial rights.

International juvenile justice standards, which Israel has obliged itself to implement by ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, demand that children should only be deprived of their liberty as a measure of last resort and must not be unlawfully or arbitrarily detained.

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