Ramallah, April 17, 2014—Recent attempts by Israeli military and intelligence officers to “summon” Palestinian children for questioning fail to address ill-treatment once they are in Israeli military custody.
The Israeli army declared in February that a new pilot program relying on written summonses would be implemented as an alternative to night arrests.
In the same month, DCI-Palestine documented six cases involving children summoned for questioning who reported ill-treatment and torture once in Israeli military detention.
The children, all from Beita, a village near the West Bank city of Nablus were summoned — either by telephone call from Israeli intelligence officers or by written summons delivered by Israeli forces during a night raid — to report for questioning the next morning.
In all cases, the children reported to an interrogation facility in the occupied West Bank as requested, and then were promptly taken into custody, denied access to a lawyer, and interrogated without the presence of a family member.
For more on the summons pilot program read op-ed by DCI-Palestine's International Advocacy Officer Brad Parker in Al-Jazeera English: Israeli military courts: Masquerading as justice?
In sworn affidavits collected by DCI-Palestine, all six children reported experiencing some form of ill-treatment while at least one of them, Bashir D, 17, was beaten during interrogation.
Bashir told DCI-Palestine: “(The Israeli interrogation officer) … kicked me twice on my legs, punched me twice on the stomach and three times on the head, while shouting, 'You better confess because I won't stop beating you unless you confess.’”
In two cases, a written summons drafted in Hebrew was delivered by Israeli forces during a night raid, while all the other children received calls to their or their parent’s mobile phones demanding they appear at the Huwara Interrogation and Detention Center near Nablus.
Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program Director at DCI-Palestine, said, “Despite repeated calls to end the ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention, Israel has persistently failed to implement practical changes to stop violence against child detainees.”
The Israeli army's announcement of the new summons pilot program follows repeated calls from the UN and other human rights organizations to stop arresting Palestinian children from their homes during night raids.
It is not clear whether the cases documented by DCI-Palestine are part of the announced pilot program, or whether the program is currently being implemented.
In 2013, 56 percent of Palestinian children arrested in the West Bank were arrested from their homes in the middle of the night, according to evidence collected by DCI-Palestine.
During raids children are routinely taken from their homes by heavily armed Israeli soldiers and subjected to ill-treatment during transfer and interrogation. Once arrested, parents rarely know where their child has been taken and pretrial detention is the norm in the Israeli military courts.
International juvenile justice standards, which Israel has obliged itself to implement by signing 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.
At a minimum, the summons pilot program must include written summonses drafted in Arabic with notice of the reasons for arrest or questioning and a list of charges against the child. Reasonable time to consult with legal counsel must also be provided.
While the pilot program may reduce instances of ill-treatment during arrest, Palestinian children remain vulnerable to violence and intimidation once in custody.
All six children who spoke to DCI-Palestine in February testified to being strip-searched, handcuffed and blindfolded, and interrogated without access to legal advice or the presence of a family member.
Last year, three in four Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank endured physical violence during arrest, transfer or interrogation, according to documentation collected by DCI-Palestine.