New report by HaMoked and B'Tselem: Unprotected – The Detention of Palestinian Teenagers in East Jerusalem המוקד להגנת הפרט
New report by HaMoked and B'Tselem: Unprotected – The Detention of Palestinian Teenagers in East Jerusalem
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Palestinian teenagers from East Jerusalem are pulled out of bed in the middle of the night, unnecessarily handcuffed and then made to spend a long time waiting for their interrogation to begin. Only then, when they are tired and broken, are they taken in for lengthy interrogation sessions, without being given the opportunity to speak to a lawyer or their parents before the questioning begins and without understanding that they have the right to remain silent. They are then held in the detention facility under harsh conditions, for days and weeks, even once the interrogation has, in fact, ended. In some cases, all this is attended by threats, verbal and physical abuse – before or during the interrogation.

Once the boys are officially placed under arrest, their parents are excluded from the proceedings altogether. At no point in time do the law enforcement authorities consider them relevant to the process or as persons entitled to protect their children. They are given no more than the very barest minimum of information about what is happening with their son or what rights he has. Only very rarely are they even allowed to meet with their child. This leaves the parents powerless, unable to help their own child.

Without the protection of their parents or any other adult they can trust, and in complete disregard of their youth, the boys have to endure this entire process alone, far from their families, away from their normal daily routine and anything familiar. The boys find themselves in a threatening and bewildering situation, with none of the adults around them taking the trouble to tell them what is going on. No one explains to them where they are being taken, what they are suspected of, what their rights are, who they may confer with, how long the process will take and when they will return to their families and homes. Worse still, the accounts given by the boys indicate that the adults around them – police officers, agents of the ISA (Israel Security Agency), prison guards and judges – treat them as though they are not entitled to anything at all. Whenever the boys make requests that are granted – be it for food and drink, a towel, access to the toilet or speaking to their parents – it is seen as a gesture of good will, completely at the discretion of whoever is in charge.

These practices leave law enforcement agencies free to use pressure to force them to confess. And indeed, many of the detained minors sign involuntary confessions (sometimes the confessions are false and sometimes written in a language they do not understand), which are then used as the basis for the indictments against them.

This reality is reflected in 60 affidavits B’Tselem and HaMoked collected from East Jerusalem teenaged boys who had been arrested and interrogated over the space of a year and a half, from May 2015 to October 2016. Some of the boys were released after the interrogation, while others were indicted. The findings that emerge from these affidavits, in conjunction with the great deal of information amassed by HaMoked, B’Tselem and other human rights organizations, demonstrate that the situation as described in this report is the primary mode of conduct adopted by the State of Israel for dealing with boys who are suspected of stonethrowing. What we are dealing with is not a few individual rogue interrogators or prison guards who defy regulations. Rather it is a case of a plain and clear policy followed by the various authorities: the police who carry out the arrests; the IPS (Israel Prison Service) which keeps the boys incarcerated in harsh conditions; and finally, the courts, where judges virtually automatically extend the boys’ custodial remand, even in cases when the arrest was unwarranted to begin with, even when the interrogation is already over, and even in cases of boys complaining of being subjected to physical abuse.

The authorities make sure this policy remains, technically, nominally, within legal provisions: it issues arrest warrants (at least sometimes); interrogation sessions are (usually) conducted in the hours permitted by law; the courts extend remand for the periods of time stipulated by the law; and the boys sign written confessions. In addition, the system includes an oversight mechanism that has the authority to review complaints made by minors regarding the conduct of police officers, prison guards or interrogators.

But none of this does any more than create a semblance of legal conduct, with a view to granting legitimacy to these proceedings. In practice, the conduct itself is based on a literal, technical interpretation of the protections afforded to minors by law and reliance on the exceptions it provides. When it comes to Palestinian minors from East Jerusalem, the safeguards set out in the Youth Law are routinely rendered hollow and meaningless by police officers, prison guards and judges who consider their nominal, technical observance of the provisions puts them in the right.

Read the report

This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of B’Tselem and HaMoked and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.
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