According to a new report by the independent, non-governmental, human rights organization the Palestinian Prisoners Club (PPC), at least 600 Palestinian children have been arrested in Jerusalem alone in the past five months. Of these, roughly 40% were sexually abused.
PPC attorney Mufeed al-Haj notes that this horrific, grotesque abuse is not the only crime of which the Israeli military is guilty. Israeli Occupation Forces are not supposed to engage in night and predawn raids, but they regularly conduct them. Israeli law says that minors undergoing investigation are supposed to be accompanied by their guardians, yet Israel virtually never allows this. As should be the case with any “democracy,” authorities are also legally “required” to have warrants for the arrest of Palestinians; they rarely do. Kidnapping is a common, everyday crime. In the first 3 weeks of November 2014 alone, Israel kidnapped at least 380 Palestinians from across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Sexual abuse and rape are indeed a form of torture. Palestinian children, illegally detained by Israel without charge, are also tortured by authorities in other ways. In a June Mondoweiss article, “New Testimonies from Palestinian Children Tortured by Israeli Authorities,” I summarized a report by the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah). The report stated that
[Israeli] Investigators threatened children with beatings, isolation, torturing their fathers and raping their mothers and sisters; children were denied food for dozens of hours unless they confessed to the charges against them.
I also noted that, in its 2013 review of Israel’s child rights record, the UN Committee on the Rights of Children (CRC) expressed “its deepest concern about the reported practice of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian children arrested, prosecuted and detained by the military and the police, and about the State party’s failure to end these practices in spite of repeated concerns expressed by treaty bodies.”
The CRC corroborated testimonies recalling Israel’s systematic use of
- physical and verbal violence,
- painful restraints,
- hooding of the head and face in a sack,
- death threats,
- physical violence,
- sexual assault against them or members of their family, and
- restricted access to toilet, food and water.
The CRC report also explained that the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has used Palestinian children as human shields multiple times.
The following is a collection of points made in the children’s testimonies, as I outlined in my article on Adalah’s report:
- The majority of arrests were made during late-hour night raids.
- Palestinians’ homes were “violently broken into by dozens of soldiers who intimidated both the children and their families.” In 100% of the testimonies, children said they were bound and blindfolded, before being transferred hundreds of meters away in military vehicles.
- In many of the testimonies, children revealed that soldiers went into their rooms, “aggressively woke them up, and shackled their hands and feet while they were still in bed.”
- In one testimony, a child who had been sleeping in his bed when the “brutal kicks of the soldiers” woke him up, had to have his finger amputated. Israeli soldiers ignored his wounded finger, tying up his hands and feet, for over 12 hours, leading to an inoperable infection.
- When family members inquired as to why exactly their young children were being harassed, assaulted, bound, blindfolded, and taken away in the middle of the night, Israeli soldiers often replied by beating and insulting them.
- In the preponderance of the arrests, neither children nor their families knew why they were being taken away. Family members would not be allowed to accompany the minor, and they would not be informed as to where Israeli authorities would be taking them.
- While soldiers were transferring the detained children to interrogation sites, soldiers regularly “used extreme physical and verbal abuse against them, including beatings, smashing the child’s head against a wall, threats of violence, and threats of sexual assault and rape.”
- In one testimony, a child was separated from his family so that soldiers could interrogate him. When finished, the soldiers ordered in four of the child’s friends, to see their peer being beaten before their eyes. In this torturous event, the detained child “confessed” that he, along with his friends, had thrown stones. Later, however, the same child admitted he had only confessed in order to stop the beatings, and he withdrew his “confessions.”
This is what Israeli officials do to Palestinian children who they think threw a few stones.
Adalah’s press release also notes that Israeli investigators, at interrogation and detention sites, regularly employed interrogation techniques that are forbidden under international law:
- 100% of the detained children’s interrogations lasted many hours. A majority said they were denied food, water, and access to a toilet. In some cases, children, who had been denied food for dozens of hours, were told they would only be fed if they confessed.
- 100% of the detained children “were left handcuffed on both their hands and feet while seated on a low chair.”
- Most of the detained children were stripped naked and strip-searched numerous times. Those “who refused to be strip-searched while naked were violently assaulted by the wardens.”
- 0 of the investigations were conducted in the company of a lawyer or relative, in flagrant violation of Israeli law.
- When children asked to meet with a lawyer, investigators told them it was “forbidden.”
- 100% of children were held in solidarity confinement for multiple days, and in some cases even weeks. One child testified that he had been held in uninterrupted solidarity confinement for 28 days.
- 100% of children “described their cells as being in very poor conditions.” Cells were windowless and incredibly small; they held only a small mattress and a foul-smelling toilet. It was not permitted that children lean on the rough walls. The cells were also lit 24 hours per day by a bright light. This light “hurt the children’s eyes” and made it difficult for children to fall asleep; from this forced sleep deprivation, children lost a sense of time, and presumably suffered from other ailments associated with sleep loss.