Saturday 24 January 2009

Israeli forces arrest seven children in West Bank

Seven children from Toura al-Gharbeiah village (near the West Bank city of Jenin) were arrested on Tuesday by the Israeli authorities; they are currently detained in Salim detention and interrogation center, in the northern West Bank. Two of the children are only 12 years old; two are 13; another two are aged 15; and the seventh is 17.

A Defense for Children International (DCI)-Palestine lawyer yesterday visited the children. According to information collected by the lawyer, between midnight and 4:00am on Tuesday 20 January, the Israeli intelligence, police and army entered Toura al-Gharbeiah village and arrested the seven children from their respective homes.

The children were then assembled in a public building in the village, and interrogated there. They were alleged to have thrown stones at the Wall and were intimidated into confessing. The eldest, Murad (17), was accused of possessing weapons, but he denied the allegation. Murad told the DCI-Palestine lawyer what happened on Tuesday morning.

Shortly after midnight, Murad was watching television at home when he heard noise outside. He got up to look through the window and saw four jeeps belonging to the Israeli police guards.

Less than a minute later, someone knocked and Murad opened the door. An Israeli police officer, accompanied by two soldiers, asked Murad his name and told him "Do not try to escape, the house is surrounded." He asked him to wake up other family members.

After the rest of the family was up, the soldiers took Murad outside, laid him on the ground, tied his hands behind his back with plastic cords, and blindfolded him. Murad lay on the ground for half an hour while the soldiers searched the house. Then, they walked him to the military jeep. While they were walking, a soldier started beating him on the face and hands. Murad reported that one of his fingers started to swell as a result of the beating.

They shoved him into the jeep, and drove for 20 minutes. Then Murad was taken out of the jeep and brought to a billiards room. He was still in the village. His blindfold was removed and an interrogator told him that they had found weapons in his house. He pressured Murad to confess to owning them; all the while screaming at him and threatening him. The interrogation went on for 40 minutes. Murad did not confess.

When the interrogation was over, Murad was blindfolded again, and left in the room until 9:00am. ... During that time, he heard the voices of other young detainees, including his brother Bashir (15). Some of the children were crying.

At 9:00am Murad was transferred to Salim detention and interrogation center. During the journey, a soldier was shouting at him and insulting him; he felt very scared.

After being interrogated in the billiards room in the village, the children were transferred to Salim detention and interrogation centre, near Jenin. When the DCI-Palestine lawyer met them on Wednesday, 21 January, the children had already confessed, under duress, to throwing stones at the Wall. Murad had still not confessed.

DCI-Palestine and their partners Addameer believe that such young children are particularly vulnerable to abuse in the Israeli military justice system and should be released immediately, all the more so, in light of the trivial nature of the alleged offense. The children's lawyer has requested a hearing today, Thursday 22 January, in order to ask the military judge for the release of the young children.

The children are: Morad Q. (17), Bashir Q. (15), Osaid Q. (12), Subhi A. H. (12), Amer Q. (13), Mohammad A. (13) and Emad A. (15).

At the end of December 2008, there were 342 Palestinian children held in Israeli prisons and detention/interrogation centers, including seven girls, and five administrative detainees. The December 2008 figures reveal the highest reported numbers of child detainees in 2008. In addition, on 17 January, DCI-Palestine issued a statement expressing concern that numbers of children arrested by the Israeli authorities in the West Bank has doubled in the first two weeks of January.

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