Israeli police abusing detained Palestinian children
April 11, Jerusalem: Israeli security forces are abusing Palestinian children detained in the West Bank. The number of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces has more than doubled since October 2015.
Interviews with children who have been detained, video footage, and reports from lawyers reveal that Israeli security forces are using unnecessary force in arresting and detaining children, in some cases beating them, and holding them in unsafe and abusive conditions.
Palestinian children are treated in ways that would terrify and traumatize an adult. Screams, threats, and beatings are no way for the police to treat a child or to get accurate information from them.
HRW has documented three new cases of physical abuse of children in custody and interrogation practices that violate these norms. Criminal defense lawyers report that such abuse is endemic. The failure to abide by international norms and protections under Israeli law concerning child detainees is particularly worrying given the spike in the number of children arrested during the recent violence involving children.
Since October, protests in the West Bank and Gaza have escalated, as has the use of live fire against demonstrators by Israeli forces. There has also been a wave of stabbings and attempted stabbings by Palestinians against Israeli civilians and security forces both in the West Bank and in Israel. As of February 29, 2016, 172 Palestinians and 24 Israelis had been killed, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Of 21 Palestinians suspected of carrying out attacks and killed in 2016, nine were children, according to the UN.
HRW interviewed three Palestinians, ages 14, 15, and 16, two of whom were arrested in East Jerusalem and a third in the West Bank city of Hebron, in October and November 2015. Each reported being subjected to unnecessary force during arrest or detention or both. It also interviewed witnesses to all three of these arrests and viewed a security camera video in which police officers can be seen using what appears to be unnecessary force to arrest the 15-year-old boy. It also interviewed criminal defense lawyers working in East Jerusalem, submitted a list of questions to the Israeli police minister through a Knesset (parliament) member, and submitted questions to the Israeli military spokesperson’s office and the Israeli police.
In two of the three cases, the police interrogated the children without a parent or guardian present; in the third, a parent was able to be present only after the interrogation had begun. All three children reported that police officers hit and kicked them after they were in custody. They said were made to spend hours outside in the cold in the early morning and at night, handcuffed in chairs in police compounds.
A video from a store security camera documenting the arrest of the one of the children, Fayez B., 15, appears to show at least seven police officers in riot gear participating in the arrest, including slapping and dragging the 53-kilogram boy and placing him in a chokehold. “It was a terrifying night,” Fayez said. The boy’s father arrived during the arrest and said a police officer punched him in the face when he asked what was happening.
According to the Palestinian children’s rights group DCI-Palestine and the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, which rely on information from the Israeli Prisons Authority, the number of Palestinian children arrested in the West Bank since October, when the violence increased, has risen by 150 percent relative to a year ago. In addition to attacks on Israeli civilians and security forces by Palestinian children, the instances of Palestinian children throwing stones at Israeli vehicles has increased.
In response to allegations of abuse in the arrest of one of the boys, Ahmed A., the Hebron District of the Israeli police force sent a written response to the questions from Human Rights Watch. It said that Ahmed’s interrogation was conducted according to law but did not specifically address allegations that police officers physically abused him. The police minister has yet to respond to a parliamentary inquiry submitted in February 2016, requesting general information about treatment of Palestinian children in detention. The police chief’s office declined a request by Human Rights Watch to meet in order to address concerns.
HRW did not request a response to the cases of the other two boys, to protect them and their families. It is withholding the last names of the children to protect their privacy.
The Oslo Times