Ramallah, January 16, 2014—Israel’s military prosecution denied last week the parents of a Palestinian child called upon to testify in an investigation over his alleged abuse by Israeli soldiers from accompanying their son. The decision contradicts a previous precedent set by the prosecution in summer 2012, allowing “a close relative (father or mother) who is not a lawyer” to be present during a child’s deposition.
Defense for Children International Palestine submitted a complaint to the Israeli Military Police Criminal Investigations Division in December over the ill treatment of Hendi S, 17, from the West Bank town of Haris, near Salfit, during arrest and transfer to Ariel police station in September. Military police investigators informed DCI-Palestine in letter dated Jan. 7 that they have opened an investigation and require the child’s testimony without the presence of his lawyer or parents.
Israeli soldiers severely beat Hendi after arresting him on Sept. 19 on suspicion of stone throwing, according to his affidavit, and one of them burned his arm with a cigarette. Soldiers kept Hendi overnight without access to food, water and toilet facilities. Israeli authorities released Hendi after nearly two weeks without charge.
“Israeli military investigators and prosecutors look for any justification to close files accusing Israeli soldiers of misconduct and blame the victim for their failure to complete the investigation,” said lawyer Iyad Misk of DCI-Palestine. “The military prosecution in this case won’t allow my client to testify in the presence of either his lawyer or his parents in violation of his rights.”
All Israeli children enjoy the right to an attorney when giving a statement against their suspected abusers during an investigation. Such a basic right exists in all legal systems that respect the rule of law.
DCI-Palestine has submitted a total of 15 complaints in 2013 over the alleged ill-treatment and torture of 10 Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers and police. In 13 of the cases, Israeli authorities failed to notify DCI-Palestine whether they had opened an investigation. The remaining two cases resulted in the military advocate general’s decision to close the investigation due to insufficient evidence. Israeli authorities blame the refusal of victims to testify without the presence of a lawyer for the insufficient evidence.
Since 2000, Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group, reports that only five percent of complaints submitted to the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division have led to an indictment.
“These tactics prove Israeli investigators have no intention of holding impartial and thorough investigations,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCI-Palestine. “Israel’s poor record of accountability, in practice, sends a loud message that grave human rights violations against Palestinians can be committed with total impunity.”