Ramallah, July 2, 2016—Abdul-Rahman Kmail was hit with a four-month extension to his administrative detention order on June 11. He was only 15 years old when he was incarcerated without charge or trial five months ago.
During Kmail’s 15-minutes of questioning at Salem military base, near the West Bank city of Jenin, he admitted to telling his friends “a lie that I wanted to stab an Israeli soldier, but I never had the intention to do so.”
The Israeli interrogator also asked Kmail if he knew the three Palestinians from his hometown of Qabatiya, south of Jenin, that carried out an attack against Israeli police officers just outside Jerusalem’s Old City on February 3. “I told him I did not know them and I had nothing to do with them,” Kmail said.
When asked if he had thrown any stones, Kmail also denied that accusation.
Over some thoughts that Kmail, now 16, had shared with friends and admitted to his interrogator without knowing his right to silence or consulting an attorney, he faces an indefinite term behind bars.
At least six other teenagers find themselves in similar circumstances to Kmail, each having received renewals to their administrative detention order in June.
Administrative detention permits military commanders or government officials to incarcerate individuals without charge or trial based on secret evidence.
“We’re disturbed by Israel’s renewed use of administrative detention against Palestinian children,” said Brad Parker, attorney and international advocacy officer at Defense for Children International - Palestine. “Jailing children without charge or trial for indefinite periods amounts to unlawful and arbitrary detention. Israel should either charge these children, and grant them their due process rights, or immediately release them.”
The longest extension of six months was handed down to Mohammad Abu al-Rob, 17, also from Qabatiya. And, much like Kmail, Abu al-Rob was accused of wanting to stab a soldier, but had not carried out an attack when he was arrested on February 7.
Abu al-Rob told DCIP that his questioning at Salem was brief: “He [the interrogator] just asked me if I had the intention to stab a soldier, and I denied it. He repeated the question several times, and that's it.”
If the appeal before an Israeli military court to reduce the term of his administrative detention fails, Abu al-Rob will turn 18 while incarcerated and lose his protected status as a minor. A precarious situation that Mohammad Dairieh, from Bethlehem, now faces having turned 18 a month into his four-month administrative detention order.
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.
Since unrest broke out in October last year, DCIP has documented the use of administrative detention against 16 Palestinian children. The Israel Prison Service’s latest data showed that it had 13 Palestinian children under administrative detention in April.
In the occupied West Bank, where 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, 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.
Up until October 2015, DCIP had never documented cases of administrative detention for Palestinian children from East Jerusalem. That month, the measure was used against three East Jerusalem youths. Each spent three months in jail without charge.
In December 2015, Israeli authorities issued a six-month administrative detention order against a fourth Jerusalem youth, 17-year-old Mohammad Hashlamoun.
Hashlamoun was denied access to an attorney, and subjected to repeated prolonged interrogation sessions while being held in solitary confinement for 22 days. He denied accusations that he was planning to carry out unspecified future attacks, even when the interrogator threatened to have his family home demolished.
“The last time I appeared in the magistrates’ court in Jerusalem, the court decided to release me on bail,” Mohammad told DCIP. “But before my family could post the bail, an intelligence officer came to the detention center and asked me to sign a document stating that I had received an order of administrative detention.”
The administrative detention order against Hashlamoun expired on June 20. Israeli authorities released him without filing any charges against him.
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.
DCIP considers all persons below the age of 18 to be children in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.