Defense for Children International, Palestine
Of all the injustices wrought on Palestinians, perhaps the most heartbreaking, and simultaneously least reported, is widespread youth detention. Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP) shines a constant light on this problem and provides legal aid to children caught up in the military court system. Here’s what you need to know about youth detention in the occupied Palestinian territory and what you can do so that together we can rise up.
Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP) provides direct and free legal aid to Palestinian minors in the Israeli military court system and the Palestinian juvenile justice system and works to limit incarceration periods. DCIP exposes grave human rights violations, including torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, against Palestinian minors under the jurisdictions of the Israeli military court system and the Palestinian juvenile justice system and holds perpetrators accountable. DCIP also conducts evidence-based advocacy in support of policy changes that increase protections and advance access to justice for Palestinian minors.
While DCIP belongs to the worldwide movement Defense for Children International, each section is autonomous in its programming and funding. Accordingly, DCIP holds registration as a local Palestinian human rights organization and membership in the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council. DCIP is the only local children’s rights nongovernmental organization in the State of Palestine dedicated to defending and promoting the rights of children living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. DCIP is the only organization providing specialized legal aid to children in distress, and one of only five main groups providing free legal aid to Palestinian children.
DCIP lawyers represent over 100 Palestinian minors before the Israeli military courts, which amounts to 20 percent or more of the total juvenile cases, in any given year. In 2017, DCIP received 151 cases, closed 140 of them, and outsourced 11.
DCIP is the lead monitoring and reporting organization on children in Israeli military detention in the UNICEF-led Working Group on Grave Violations against Palestinian children, a U.N. country-level effort to strengthen monitoring and reporting activities related to grave violations against children included in Security Council resolution 1612. UNICEF uses DCIP’s affidavits and data for Global Horizontal Notes that inform the U.N. Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict.
Palestinian children have the right to a safe and just future. The No Way to Treat a Child campaign believes the U.S. and Canadian governments must take concrete steps toward this future by holding Israeli authorities accountable for violations of Palestinian children’s rights. Join us at http://nwttac.dci-palestine.org.
You can find Defense for Children International Palestine on their website at http://www.dci-palestine.org/. Or find it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DCIPS, Twitter at http://twitter.com/DCIPalestine, YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/user/DCIPS, or Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/dcipalestine/.
Instead of a law-based, negotiated settlement founded on universal human rights principles, justice and respect for human dignity, Palestinian children grow up under military occupation where perpetrators of human rights violations enjoy impunity.
Israel operates two separate legal systems in the West Bank. Military law, with severe restrictions on daily life, applies to Palestinians, while Israeli settlers fall under Israeli civilian law. Stationed throughout the occupied West Bank, Israeli soldiers, police, and private security firms enforce military law and protect settler populations at the expense of Palestinian civilians. In this hyper militarized environment, Palestinian children face disproportionate physical violence, restricted access to education, and psychological trauma.
Palestinian children, largely males, in the West Bank face arrest, prosecution, and detention under an Israeli military court system that denies them basic rights. Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes an estimated 500 to 700 children each year in military courts. Children within the Israeli military system commonly report physical and verbal abuse from the moment of their arrest, and coercion and threats during interrogations.
In 2017, an average of 312 Palestinian children were in the Israeli prison system each month for “security offences,” according to Israel Prison Service (IPS) data. Among them were an average of 62 children between the ages of 12 and 15. The IPS does not release the yearly total number of incarcerated Palestinian children and has stopped consistently releasing monthly data since May 2016.
Large-scale demonstrations, marches and clashes throughout the West Bank following U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to publicly recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December corresponded with a spike in the number of Palestinian child detainees.
DCIP collected affidavits from 137 West Bank children detained and prosecuted under the jurisdiction of Israeli military courts in 2017. The data shows that 74.5 percent of children endured some form of physical violence following arrest and 62 percent were verbally abused, intimidated, or humiliated.
Of the 137 children, 26 were held in solitary confinement for interrogation purposes for an average period of 12 days. The longest period of isolation for a child that DCIP documented in 2017 was 23 days.
At least five Palestinian minors were placed in administrative detention in 2017, a form of imprisonment based on secret evidence without charge or trial. Of these, three were released without charge after a period of two to seven months, leaving two still in administrative detention at year’s end. Another teenager placed under administrative detention in August 2016, when 17 years old, spent his 18th month in prison without charge or trial.
Israel has placed a total of 25 Palestinian minors in administrative detention since October 2015 when it renewed the practice against individuals under the age of 18.
Children most commonly face the charge of throwing stones, which carries maximum sentences of 10 or 20 years, depending on the circumstances.
Many children maintain their innocence, but plead guilty, as it is the fastest way to get out of the system. Most receive plea deals of less than 12 months. Trials, on the other hand, can last a year, possibly longer. Military judges rarely grant bail, which leaves most children behind bars as they await trial.
Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces generally experience multiple forms of trauma, which often go untreated throughout the period of incarceration, as there are limited or no formal psychological services to Palestinian juveniles that suffer violent arrest and coercive interrogation. In many cases, it is the first time children experience separation from their families for an extended period. The fear of rearrest and the difficulty children experience when reintegrating into their community serve to compound untreated trauma.
After release from prison, many Palestinian child ex-prisoners struggle to reintegrate into their communities. Some continue to behave as if they are still in prison: self-restricting their movements, reducing their social contact and spending long hours watching television.
For children who confess to crimes they did not commit or name other children in their confessions, the psychological toll can be heavy. Some fear revenge from community members after release, or struggle with feelings of guilt and shame.
The ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children often begins when Israeli forces arrest them in the middle of the night. Night arrests traumatize children, distort feelings of personal security when at home and during sleep, and can hinder a child’s ability to sleep in the future. The trauma worsens due to the widespread and systematic abuse experienced by Palestinian children at the hands of Israeli forces.
Israeli interrogation techniques are generally mentally and physically coercive, frequently incorporating a mix of intimidation, threats, and physical violence with the apparent purpose of inflicting physical or mental pain or suffering for obtaining a confession.
Despite sustained engagement by UNICEF and repeated calls to end night arrests and ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention, Israeli authorities have persistently failed to implement practical changes to end violence against child detainees.
International juvenile justice standards, which Israel has obliged itself to implement by ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1991, demand that children should not be deprived of their liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention, or imprisonment of a child shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.
Amir Othman Darwish, Detained at Night and Beaten During Interrogation
Ramallah, January 23, 2017—Israeli forces beat a Palestinian boy during interrogation after detaining him from his East Jerusalem home in the early morning hours of January 2 on suspicion of throwing stones.
Amir Othman Darwish, 14, awoke to find at least a dozen Israeli paramilitary border police officers in his bedroom on January 2 around 3:30 a.m. in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya. He was handcuffed and transferred to Al-Mascobiyya interrogation and detention center in Jerusalem without being informed of the charges against him. Amir told Defense for Children International – Palestine, he was strip searched, subjected to physical violence during interrogation, and signed documents written in Hebrew without understanding their contents.
“Palestinian children are regularly subjected to coercive and violent interrogation techniques intended to extract confessions,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCIP. “In recent years, Israeli lawmakers have pushed forward a slew of harsh policies that target Palestinian youth in East Jerusalem, prioritizing criminalization and punishment over rehabilitation and reintegration in complete disregard of international law.”
Upon arrival at Al-Mascobiyya, Amir was forced to kneel on the ground with his hands bound behind his back for approximately two hours before he was allowed to meet briefly with an attorney.
Amir said he was then interrogated without the presence of an attorney or legal guardian. “He accused me of throwing stones at soldiers, but I denied it, and he suddenly started slapping me very hard, punching me, and kicking me all over my body.”
“Whenever I denied it, he would beat me harder. He would also push me against the wall and bang my head,” Amir told DCIP. “He would shout loudly, swear, and say dirty things about my mother. He even threatened to prevent my father from working.”
After several hours of interrogation, Amir signed documents in Hebrew, a language he cannot read or understand. Amir was then strip-searched and examined by a medic, but did not receive any medical treatment while in custody.
“[The medic] asked me about the bruises on my face and I told him I got them during the interrogation,” Amir told DCIP. “[The interrogator] said I got them before the interrogation, laughed, and left the room.”
Amir was released into his father’s custody around noon on the condition that he not see another Palestinian teenager, who was arrested the same night, for a period of 30 days.
Children in East Jerusalem are generally subject to the Israeli Youth Law, which theoretically applies equally to Palestinian and Israeli children. However, documentation collected by DCIP shows Israeli authorities implement the law in a discriminatory manner, denying Palestinian children in East Jerusalem of their rights from the moment of arrest to the end of legal proceedings.
Israeli lawmakers began pushing forward a slew of harsh policies in 2015 that target Palestinian children. These laws and other policy changes are part of a wider crackdown by Israeli authorities to quash unrest that swept across Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank beginning in 2015.
With a few friends or a group go to a local fair, cultural event, etc., and have 2 or 3 of you sit on your knees, blindfolded or with tape over your mouth, and with your hands zip-tied behind your back. Hold signs with pictures, quotations, and statistics about child arrests in Palestine such as the story of Ahed Tamimi, educating passers-by to this cruel reality for many children in Palestine. Have the rest of the group hand out leaflets about child arrests in Palestine.
Take a photo of your group and signs to post on social media. Include a link to this page of the Kumi Now website along with the hashtags #KumiNow and #Kumi43.
“A letter from prison” by DAM
Dear beloved Momma,
I’m upset because I’m home and you are in prison
People mock me because I’m out and you’re in
Shame on those who don’t recognize the women resisters
You’ve been carrying the struggle your whole life
And carrying me while in prison
My first cry at birth
Was a scream for freedom
Soft bones, hard bars
I’m a baby prisoner, baby of a prisoner
The only male in a women’s jail
I was born there, and you still live there
I remember your handcuffs used to be my only toy
You breastfed me awareness
The happiest time for all of you was when I had my first tooth
I haven’t seen my father yet but I have more than one mother
DAM is the first Palestinian hip hop crew and among the first to rap in Arabic. Translated lyrics from the DAM website. Listen to the song at https://youtu.be/R6Kq-NeHqlE.
“No Way to Treat a Child: Palestinian Children in the Israeli Military Detention System” (2016):
- Summary: http://www.dci-palestine.org/no_way_to_treat_a_child_palestinian_children_in_the_israeli_military_detention_system
- Full report: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/dcipalestine/pages/1527/attachments/original/1460665378/DCIP_NWTTAC_Report_Final_April_2016.pdf?1460665378
Additional reports from DCIP can be found at http://www.dci-palestine.org/publications
Regular news coverage from DCIP:
- New Israeli law allows children as young as 12 to be jailed, August 2016: http://www.dci-palestine.org/new_israeli_law_allows_children_as_young_as_12_to_be_jailed
- Jail terms extended for seven Palestinian teens held without charge or trial, July 2016: http://www.dci-palestine.org/jail_terms_extended_for_seven_palestinian_teens_held_without_charge_or_trial
- Inside Megiddo’s juvenile section, an Israeli prison for Palestinian children, April 2016:
- Part 1 (Daily life): http://www.dci-palestine.org/inside_megiddo_s_juvenile_section_an_israeli_prison_for_palestinian_children_part_1_daily_life
- Part 2 (Family contact): http://www.dci-palestine.org/inside_megiddo_s_juvenile_section_family_contact_part_2
- Part 3 (Education): http://www.dci-palestine.org/inside_megiddo_s_juvenile_section_education_part_3
- Part 4 (The Psychological impact of detention): http://www.dci-palestine.org/inside_megiddo_s_juvenile_section_the_psychological_impact_part_4
Find more at http://www.dci-palestine.org/news
Reports from other organizations:
- HaMoked and B’Tselem, “Unprotected: Detention of Palestinian Teenagers in East Jerusalem” (2017):
- Save the Children, “The Impact of Child Detention: Occupied Palestinian Territory” (2012): https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/sites/default/files/documents/5720.pdf
- UNICEF, “Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations” (2013): https://www.unicef.org/oPt/UNICEF_oPt_Children_in_Israeli_Military_Detention_Observations_and_Recommendations_-_6_March_2013.pdf
- “Palestinian Youth: With a Special Focus on Jerusalem” from PASSIA: http://passia.org/media/filer_public/4c/ae/4cae6026-4599-41c3-93c2-2d9f4d854b11/palestinian_youth-_english.pdf
“To Israelis a Child Is a Child, Unless He Is a Palestinian” by Assia Ladizhinskaya and Eitan Diamond for Haaretz: https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-palestinian-children-are-unable-to-touch-the-hearts-of-israeli-jews-1.6243975
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