6srael charged with 14 cases of sexual
assault and threats to children
assault and threats to children
On 18 May 2010, DCI-Palestine submitted 14 cases to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture for investigation. The submission relates to the sexual assault, or threat of sexual assault, of Palestinian children at the hands of Israeli soldiers, interrogators and police between January 2009 and April 2010. The ages of the children range from 13 to 16 years.
DCI-Palestine is becoming increasingly alarmed at reports contained in sworn affidavits received from children that they are being subjected to sexual assault, or threat of sexual assault, in order to obtain confessions.
DCI-Palestine has reviewed 100 sworn affidavits collected from children in 2009, and in four percent of cases, children report being sexually assaulted, whilst in 12 percent of cases, the children report being threatened with sexual assault. The sexual assault and threats of sexual assault documented by DCI-Palestine include grabbing boys by the testicles until they confess and threatening boys as young as 13 years with rape unless they confess to throwing stones at Israeli settler vehicles in the occupied West Bank. DCI-Palestine suspects that these figures may understate the extent of the problem.
In one of the cases documented by DCI-Palestine, a 15 year-old boy recalls his experience after being arrested by Israeli soldiers from his family home at 2am, in September 2009:
‘While sitting on the ground near the truck, a person speaking Arabic approached me and grabbed my hands and ordered me to stand up and accompany him. He grabbed me so violently and pulled me. He forced me to walk with him for about 20 metres and I could see from under the blindfold that we stopped behind a military jeep. He slapped me hard twice and grabbed my testicles so hard and started pressing them. Then, he asked me whether I threw stones and Molotov cocktails and I said I did not. He started shouting and saying ‘liar, your mother’s a c**t.’ He started beating me all over my body and once again he grabbed my testicles and started pressing hard. “I won’t let go of your testicles unless you confess,” he said to me. I felt so much pain and kept shouting. I had no other choice but to confess to throwing stones.’
Each year around 700 Palestinian children are arrested, interrogated and prosecuted in the Israeli military courts. The most common charge is for throwing stones. The children are interrogated in the absence of a lawyer and family members and in 2009, over 80 percent of these children provided confessions after a coercive interrogation, of which 32 percent were written in Hebrew, a language few Palestinian children understand. Following their conviction in the military courts, the majority of these children are incarcerated inside Israel in contravention of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
DCI-Palestine is requesting that the Special Rapporteur investigates these and other reports relating to the apparent widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and to publish the findings.
For further information please see DCI-Palestine’s latest report on Palestinian child prisoners.
69 minors complained of being beaten, four minors reported being sexually assaulted, and 12 said they were threatened with sexual assault.By Amira Hass
Most Palestinian children arrested by the Israel Defense Forces and police are intimidated, abused and maltreated in custody, according to the sworn testimonies of minors who were arrested last year. This happens both before and during interrogation, and several minors have been sexually assaulted.
The Palestinian branch of the non-governmental organization Defense for Children International has asked the United Nations to probe complaints of sexual assaults.
The organization has collected 100 detailed depositions from minors aged 12 to 17 who were arrested last year, immediately after their release. Most of the findings were not a surprise to DCI activists, apart from verbal or physical attacks of a sexual nature committed by soldiers.
Sixty-nine minors complained of being beaten by soldiers (slaps, kicks, sometimes blows with a rifle stock or club ). Nearly all - 97 percent, including children aged 12 to 15 - were held for hours with their hands cuffed, and 92 percent were blindfolded for long periods of time. Twenty-six percent said they were forced to remain in painful positions.
For example, one child said he was bound, blindfolded and placed on the floor of a jeep or vehicle on its way to the prison facility. About half the children said the soldiers who arrested them cursed and threatened them before the interrogation, to make them confess the charges. Or the children were urged to confess with false promises of immediate release.
The children were frequently told that the soldier who beat them was also the interrogator to whom they must confess. Most of them said they were held for many hours before receiving anything to drink or eat.
The DCI says the numerous sworn testimonies attest to a fixed, repeated pattern. It says these practices violate international law and the children's rights.
In addition, causing pain and intimidation to extract a confession from a minor or make him incriminate others is defined as torture.
The relatively surprising findings in the depositions were the complaints of sexual abuse - verbal or physical. Minors usually have difficulty talking about this aspect of their arrest, and the issue came up only during the longer conversations DCI lawyers had with the children.
Four minors reported being sexually assaulted, and 12 said they were threatened with sexual assault. The threat was accompanied by physical violence. Last week, the DCI's Palestinian branch sent the UN official who monitors torture 14 complaints by Palestinian prisoners aged 13 to 16 of sexual assault during detentions from January 2009 to April 2010.
The depositions sent to the UN report direct attacks, including squeezing boys' testicles, pushing a blunt object (a club or rifle stock ) between the chair and a child's buttocks, and repeated threats of "I'll screw you if you don't confess you threw stones."
A 15-year-old arrested in September told the DCI that a soldier slapped him twice, squeezed his testicles and asked if he had thrown stones or a Molotov cocktail. The boy said he hadn't thrown either, and the soldier shouted at him that he was a liar, beat him all over his body, grabbed his testicles again and squeezed. "I won't let your balls go until you confess," he said.
The boy felt such pain that he confessed to throwing stones, he reported.
The DCI recommends that the IDF and police interrogate minors only in the presence of a lawyer of their choice and a relative, and record the interrogation on video. These accepted procedures for interrogating children would reduce the risk of extorted confessions.
Palestinian prisoners, including minors, are allowed to see their lawyers only shortly before trial, sometimes only in the courtroom itself. This prevents them from talking in detail about their treatment in custody. Minors, 60 percent of whom are charged with stone-throwing, may expect a much shorter prison sentence than their detention time until the end of the trial.
Consequently, many minors confess, even when they deny the charges, and their lawyers sign plea deals with the prosecution to shorten their incarceration.
Asked about a failure to complain to the authorities about the sexual assault of minors, DCI legal adviser Khaled Kuzmar said many parents are not prepared to do so. "Very few people have confidence in the system that abuses them," he said.
Some fear that the system or certain individuals would take revenge on them if they complain, he said.
However, the DCI is considering filing complaints along with Israeli human rights groups, if the parents agree.
The Israeli authorities arrest around 700 Palestinian minors aged 12 to 18 annually. Some 300 Palestinian minors are held in various Israeli prison facilities every month - either before or after they have been tried. Last month, 335 Palestinian minors, 32 of them aged 12 to 15, were imprisoned, mostly on suspicion of throwing stones.
The IDF Spokesman's Office dismissed "claims of deliberate deviation from procedures for arresting and interrogating minors. Minors' arrests are carried out in keeping with international law; the arrest of suspects under 16 years old in the West Bank requires a military lawyer's approval .... Minors are brought before a judge within a relatively short period."
The spokesman said complaints about violence should be raised during the trial, or in an orderly complaint to the Justice Ministry's police investigation department or the Military Police.
Military sources told Haaretz that minors' interrogation sessions are recorded, except for interrogations by the Shin Bet security service, which are exempt by law. As for a lawyer's presence during a minor's interrogation, the law does not require that even in Israel proper.