Israeli forces isolate Palestinian child prisoner for 31 days

Feb 28, 2024
Israeli forces detain a Palestinian protester during clashes on March 7, 2017, near Israel's Ofer Prison, after a march by students from Birzeit University demonstrating against the killing of a young Palestinian man the previous day in an exchange of fire with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Photo: AFP / Abbas Momani)

Ramallah, February 28, 2024—Israeli forces isolated a 17-year-old Palestinian child in solitary confinement for 31 days.

Ahmad,* a 17-year-old Palestinian child was released from Israeli prisons at the end of November as part of the truce agreement between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups after spending more than eight months in Israeli custody, according to documentation collected by Defense for Children International - Palestine. Israeli forces first detained Ahmad on March 21, 2023, before isolating him in solitary confinement for interrogation purposes for 31 days. 

“Israeli forces isolate one in four Palestinian child detainees in solitary confinement for at least two days, and on average, for 16 days,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP. “Solitary confinement is used to coerce a confession and takes an enormous psychological toll on children. It is nothing short of torture.”

“The solitary confinement cell had a foul smell and its walls were gray and had a rough texture,” Ahmad told DCIP. “The lights were strong and disturbing to the eye. I could hardly distinguish day from night. There was also a thin, dirty mattress that had a foul smell, in addition to a pit toilet. In the ceiling, there was an air conditioner that was deliberately turned on at a cold temperature for no less than an hour, and then at a hot temperature for another hour, and so on. I felt extreme fatigue because of that, and it happened more than once.”

"I was kept in detention in the cell for 31 days, during which I was interrogated almost on a daily basis,” Ahmad explained. “I was not allowed to receive any legal advice from a lawyer, and no one ever informed me of my right to remain silent.”

Ahmad, who spent the majority of his detention in Megiddo prison in northern Israel, told DCIP that Israeli forces’ abuse of Palestinian children escalated after October 7, 2023, when Israeli forces unleashed a full-scale military offensive on the Gaza Strip.

"On October 21, the Israeli suppression unit came with tear gas and batons, and they stormed our room and started insulting us, shouting at us, and spitting in our faces,” Ahmad said. “They made us carry our mattresses and took us to a room, where they held us inside for nearly two hours. Then they took each of us separately for a strip-search and beat us on our heads and all over our bodies. After that, we were handcuffed, had our feet shackled, blindfolded and taken by the bosta [prisoner transfer vehicle] to Damon prison. We had not been given any food or water, and we had not been allowed to use the bathroom either." Ahmad told DCIP. 

"We were held in a room and given a rotten, foul-smelling meal, consisting of a cucumber, a piece of beef, and a small piece of bread,” said Ahmad, describing the conditions at Damon prison in northern Israel. “None of us dared to consume it, except for one child, who vomited repeatedly." 

"On November 21, I was returned alone to Megiddo prison, and I was severely beaten by the guards,” Ahmad said. “I was returned to the same room in the juvenile section. I was in extreme pain. I was shocked by the fact that the conditions were still the same, in terms of storming the section and beating up everyone. I stayed there until November 26. During that time, the room was stormed by the suppression units more than once, and they poured water on me and on my clothes, in addition to insulting me and confiscating the rest of my clothes. I was left wearing wet clothes in the extremely cold weather. They had already confiscated the mattress and the blanket, so I was sleeping without any covers or mattresses."

"On November 25, the room was raided while I was with other children, and we were insulted, shouted at, and spat at. We were forced to gather in one corner, and we were severely beaten with batons for about 10 minutes, until our clothes were filled with blood. Then they threw away the food that we had collected days ago to eat, poured water on us, and threw trash at us” Ahmad explained. 

On November 26, Ahmad was taken with a number of other children to the courtyard, where they endured more beatings. “Our clothes were already covered in blood because of the severe beating we had been subjected to,” he explained. After that, he was informed that he will be released as a part of a prisoner exchange. 

“The intelligence officer threatened me that if I did anything, my sentence would be appealed, and more months, if not years, would be added to my sentence. He also warned me not to leave my village because if I ever pass through any checkpoint, I would be arrested immediately” he told DCIP. 

Israeli authorities and Palestinian armed groups negotiated a truce that came into force on November 24, 2023, resulting in the release of around 180 Palestinian prisoners by Israeli authorities and Hamas freeing around 110 hostages, including at least 80 Israelis. The Palestinian prisoners released by Israel were mostly women, children, and 18-year-old Palestinian men. The truce expired on December 1, 2023, and Israeli forces resumed combat operations in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank, like adults, face arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment under an Israeli military detention system that denies them basic rights.

Since 1967, Israel has operated two separate legal systems in the same territory. In the occupied West Bank, Israeli settlers are subject to the civilian and criminal legal system, whereas Palestinians live under military law.

Israel applies civilian criminal law to Palestinian children in East Jerusalem. Notably, no Israeli child comes into contact with the military courts.

However, Israel holds the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that automatically and systematically prosecutes children in military courts lacking fundamental fair trial rights and protections. Shockingly, between 500 and 700 Palestinian children face prosecution in these military courts each year, underscoring the urgent need for international attention to address these systemic injustices.

Transfer of Palestinian detainees, including children, to prisons and interrogation and detention facilities inside Israel, even for brief periods, constitutes an unlawful transfer in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and constitutes a war crime in violation of Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Israel’s practice of unlawfully transferring Palestinian prisoners out of occupied territory has been challenged twice before the Israeli Supreme Court. In both instances, the court held that when in conflict, primary Israeli legislation overrides the provisions of international law.

*Ahmad is a pseudonym. The child’s name is known to DCIP but not disclosed in order to protect his privacy.

Military Detention | News
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