Israeli Army Launches New Procedure for Summoning Palestinian Minors

18:00 Aug 3 2021 Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPT): Jerusalem and West Bank

Israeli Army Launches New Procedure for Summoning Palestinian Minors
Israeli forces detain 14-year-old Palestinian Fevzi El-Junid in Hebron, 2017.Credit: Wisam Hashlamoun / Anadolu Agency Published by Haaretz

by Hagar Shezaf for Haaretz
Aug. 3, 2021 5:54 PM

The Israeli military has introduced a procedure for summoning Palestinian minors for interrogation instead of detaining them without warning, but the rules remain confidential and contain exceptions that make them unlikely to significantly reduce nighttime arrests.

The announcement on the procedures was provided in advance of a hearing on a petition by the Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual asking that the summons be the default procedure for suspects. In a hearing on the petition, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said on Monday that the state will need to provide an update about the implementation of the new rules in February 2022.

Over the past six years, the military has claimed that it was conducting a pilot program for summoning minors for interrogation instead of arresting them in their homes, but announced in 2018 that the program would not apply to those aged between 16 and 18. The new regulations are based on the pilot program, which appears to have been extremely limited in scope – but unlike the pilot program, it does not exclude those aged 16-18. According to the main points of the regulations provided by the military, the procedure will apply only to minors the police want to question – not minors the Shin Bet wants to interrogate, who will still be arrested in their homes.

The new regulations include many exceptions. They will not apply if there is a need to search the house of the minor, if there is a serious concern over possible flight or obstruction of justice, if the suspect poses an immediate danger, or if there are a number of suspects and the summoning of one of them would interfere with the arrest of the rest. The procedure also makes an exception for minors suspected of “serious violations” and those with a record of such crimes. A definition was not given for what qualifies as a serious crime, and it is not clear whether crimes such as stone-throwing or participation in an illegal demonstration are also included. The summons will be made in a call in Arabic between the police and the minor’s parents, according to the military.

According to figures provided by the military after freedom of information requests by Hamoked, over the past six years 128 Palestinian minors received summons for interrogation by the police as part of the pilot program. In comparison, in 2019 alone, 235 Palestinian minors were arrested in their homes, without prior warning, in the middle of the night.

Daniel Shenhar, the head of Hamoked’s legal department, who filed the petition, said of the military's announcement: “It is a good thing that as a result of Hamoked’s petition the army set regulations to summon children for interrogation, but it is clear … that the army still sees the arrest of a child in the middle of the night as something routine, and even the default choice. The regulation is confidential, and it has so many conditions, that there is a fear that nothing will change on the ground. Therefore, the High Court of Justice decided to remain with its finger on the pulse and examine its implementation during the next half year.”

Children in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict
From Wikipedia

Child detention
(as of Aug 3, 2021)
In September 2009, after documentation emerged showing Palestinians children as young as 12 were prosecuted in adult military courts, Israel established a juvenile military court, 'the first and only juvenile military court in operation in the world.' Military Order 1651 establishes a maximum 6 months sentence for children aged 12–13, and 12 months for juniors aged 14–15, unless the offence involves throwing stones at persons or property with the intent to damage, in which case 10 years imprisonment is the maximum penalty.[68]

In one case a 5-year-old child has been detailed on allegations he threw stones in Hebron. The IDF said that the boy had endangered passers-by and that soldiers only accompanied him to his parents. It stated that the child was not arrested and no charges were filed.[69][70][71]

A separate study, conducted from 2005 until 2010 was released in mid-2011 by the Jerusalem-based non-profit B'Tselem, found that the actions of the IDF potentially violated the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Fourth Geneva Convention.[72]

When researching a story based on this study, The Guardian obtained a statement from Amir Ofek, the press attache for the Embassy of Israel in London. Ofek challenged these statements, writing, "When a minor involved in terrorist activity is arrested, the law is clear: no torture or humiliation is permitted, nor is solitary confinement in order to induce a confession." He further said that the DCI statement "[omits] the horrific nature of the atrocities that minors, some as young as 12, can be arrested for."[73]

According to a March 2013 report by the United Nations Children's Fund ("UNICEF"), Israel has arrested some 7,000 Palestinian children; 18 of 27 arrested in Hebron in March 2013 were below the age of 12.[47][74] The report was based on 400 cases documented since 2009. It stated that the Palestinian children who are detained by the Israeli military are subjected to "widespread, systematic and institutionalized" ill treatment in violation of international law. UNICEF estimated that in the West Bank IDF and Israeli security services annually arrest around 700 youths between 12 and 17 years old. The report supported claims that the arrests were often made, without notice, in private homes at night. It reports that children are blindfolded, painfully restrained, and subjected to physical and verbal abuse while being detained, sometimes in solitary confinement.

The report further claims that, once in detention, they are interrogated and coerced into confession, without immediate access to a legal counsel or family members.[75] Signed confessions are typically typed in Hebrew, which few Palestinian minors can read. As of January 2013 Israeli military prisons held 233 males under 18, 31 under the age of 16.[76] Additionally children are shackled during court appearances and made to serve sentences in Israel. UNICEF stated these findings "amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture".[75]

About 60 percent of arrested minors are charged with throwing rocks at soldiers or passing cars,[76] which the IDF regards as a form of terrorism as it has led to the death and injury of Israelis, including of children.[77]

The UNICEF report noted that Israel had made some positive changes over recent years, such as hand tying measures that do not cause pain or injury.[75] It urged Israel to refrain from blindfolding minors and holding them in solitary confinement, to permit an attorney or family member to attend interrogations, and to record interrogations to document any false claims of abuse. Israel's Foreign Ministry said Israel's military was already making changes to cooperate with the United Nations, including reducing holding time before seeing a judge to 48 hours, telling parents about arrest of children, and informing children of their right to consult a lawyer. UNICEF replied that the changes were insufficiently specific.[76] Israeli Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor stated that "Israel will study the conclusions and will work to implement them through ongoing cooperation with UNICEF, whose work we value and respect".[75] In October,2013 UNICEF reported that the IDF was introducing changes in its arrest of minors in a pilot-test programme, but according to Haaretz the policy had not at that date been implemented and was still under study.[78]

January 2015, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor has issued a press release about Israeli detention of a Palestinian girl. The monitor said that Malak Al-Khatib, 14 year old-Palestinian girl, has been imprisoned by Israeli authorities for 22 consecutive days without contact with her parents, and has just been sentenced to serve another month along with a stiff fine on her parents. In addition, the monitor said that another four children as young as 11 were recently held for four hours under threat of detention and death. The Euro-Med Monitor has condemned Israel's policy of detaining children and subjecting them to abusive and inhumane treatment.[79]

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