Adalah to Attorney General: Shocking testimonies from Palestinian children who were tortured during arrest and interrogation
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.
On 1 June 2014, Adalah sent an urgent letter to the Attorney General (AG) demanding an end to the practice of physical and psychological torture and ill-treatment against Palestinian children from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) during their arrest and interrogation by Israeli security personnel. Adalah requested that the AG open criminal investigations into such cases and prosecute those responsible for these serious crimes.
Adalah's letter is based on 21 shocking testimonies made by Palestinian children and recorded by lawyers from the Defense for Children International/Palestine Section (DCI/PS). The dangerous practices described in the testimonies constitute serious criminal offenses such as assault, damage, threat, sexual harassment and other unlawful activity committed by security authorities, ranging from soldiers, to GSS interrogators, and to prison wardens.
Adalah Attorneys Fady Khoury and Nadeem Shehadeh stated in the letter that: "The practices that appear in the testimonies constitute a serious violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Israeli law and international law, including the right to dignity, the right to physical integrity, the right to liberty, and the right to privacy. These rights must be respected by all authorities in Israel, from the army to the investigation authorities."
Adalah’s attorneys further highlighted the fact that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) treaty, to which the state of Israel is a signatory, obliges Israel to immediately inform the child and his relatives regarding the charges against the child and to ensure adequate legal representation for the child from the moment of his first arrest. The CRC also obliges Israel to refrain from extorting children through physical and psychological pressure in order to attain confessions under duress. Furthermore, the treaty forbids children's exposure to any type of abuse, torture, humiliation and inhuman treatment.
Night-time raids, physical abuse and psychological violence
The children's testimonies revealed that most of the arrests were made during raids in the late hours of the night. Their homes are violently broken into by dozens of soldiers who intimidated both the children and their families. In all the testimonies, the children acknowledged the binding of their hands and feet, blindfolding of their eyes, and their transfer to military vehicles which were hundreds of meters away from the location of the arrest. In many cases, the soldiers went into the children's rooms, aggressively woke them up, and shackled their hands and feet while they were still in bed.
In one of the testimonies, a child spoke of how he woke up to the brutal kicks of the soldiers as he was sleeping in his bed. After they woke him, they tied his hands and feet for more than half a day, even though the child's finger was severed up to the middle from a previous incident; this led to a serious infection and forced the doctors to amputate the child's entire finger. In many cases, when parents spoke to soldiers for information regarding the arrest of their children, the soldiers responded with beatings and insults against the family members. In most cases, the child was arrested without them or their families knowing the reason for the arrest, without a relative accompanying the child during the arrest, and without informing them or the families where they would be moved to. The testimonies also reveal that during the child's transfer to the interrogation site, the soldiers 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 of the testimonies, a child reported that after the soldiers beat him in his own home, they isolated all his family members in one room and kept him in the main hall of the house. After the soldiers finished interrogating him, they brought four other children, who were friends of the detained child, into the house and began beating him in front of them. Amidst the torture and beatings, the child "confessed" to throwing stones and "confessed" that his friends also participated. Later in the interrogation site, the child withdrew his confessions and said he only admitted to the misdemeanors in order to stop the beatings.
Ill-treatment and denial of accompaniment during detention
Investigators used interrogation techniques that are prohibited by law. For example, all the children acknowledged that the interrogations lasted for many hours and that they were left handcuffed on both their hands and feet while seated on a low chair. The investigators threatened the children with beatings, isolation, torturing their fathers and raping their mothers and sisters. Most of the children also said that they had been strip-searched while naked through many phases of the investigation. Children who refused to be strip-searched while naked were violently assaulted by the wardens as a result.
Furthermore, the children's investigations were conducted without the company of a lawyer or a relative. When the children asked the investigators if they could receive legal advice from a lawyer, the investigators responded by saying that it is "forbidden" to meet with a lawyer. The experiences of long hours of investigations while being denied access to a toilet, and denied food and sufficient drinking water, were common among the testimonies. In some cases, investigators refused to give the children food for dozens of hours unless they confessed to the charges against them.
In all the testimonies gathered, the children were held under solitary confinement and isolated from the outside world for days, and sometimes even weeks, at a time. One of the children said in his testimony that he was kept in solitary confinement for 28 consecutive days. All the minors also described their cells as being in very poor conditions; the cells were very small, without any windows, and comprised of a small mattress and a toilet which had a terrible smell. The walls of the cells, according to the testimonies, were rough and could not be leaned on. The testimonies also showed that the cells are kept lit 24 hours a day by a bright yellow light that hurt the children's eyes and prevented them from sleeping, causing them to lose comprehension of time.