HaMoked documents systematic violation of rights in the arrest and interrogation of West Bank Palestinian minors. The Israel Police dismisses the criticism and refuses to examine HaMoked's claims unless it provides the affidavits collected from the minors
On November 22, 2017, HaMoked wrote
to the Israel Police to demand it take action to amend the current practice relating to the interrogation of Palestinian minors from the West Bank at the various police stations. HaMoked’s letter was based on 26 testimonies of Palestinian minors, collected in July-October 2017. It follows up previous correspondence
on this issue, based on dozens of affidavits gathered in 2016.
The new testimonies paint the same worrying picture as that HaMoked presented in its previous letter
to the police: most of the minors are brought to the police station after they were detained by the military in the middle of the night and taken on a grueling journey to the interrogation, often blindfolded and handcuffed, and sometimes subjected to additional harassment and abuse. Thus when they finally reach the interrogation, the minors are scared and exhausted. In the majority of the cases, the interrogation itself is conducted without the minor first being given the right to confer with a lawyer. In the few instances in which minors did speak to a lawyer, it was only by telephone and was attended by other substantive flaws. In all cases, minors had to face the interrogators alone. In no case was a parent present during the interrogation and only a few minors were not allowed to contact their parents before the interrogation.
About half of the minors reported that they underwent an informal questioning before the formal interrogation. These questionings were not documented in any way, not even in writing, and during them many of the minors were physically and verbally abused. Most of the formal interrogations were conducted without audiovisual recording. In the cases where it appeared that an audio recording was made of the interrogation, the minors reported that the interrogators turned off the recording devices before they threatened, or even physically abused them. Moreover, the interrogators did not act as would be expected from qualified youth interrogators; and often the minors found themselves facing several interrogators at once. HaMoked clarified that this was a systematic and routine practice, which induced a mental and physical breakdown in many minors. They are subjected to a pervasive violation of their most basic rights, including the right not to incriminate themselves. As a result, the youths are easily convicted and receive heavy sentences. In its letter, HaMoked clarified that by and large the minors were not interested in filing complaints regarding their traumatic detention with the Police Investigation Unit, because they wanted to avoid further contact with the authorities.
In its response
of January 31, 2018, similar to their response to HaMoked’s previous letter, the police dismissed all of HaMoked’s claims and reiterated its formalistic position that these claims “are general such that it is impossible to examine them on their merits”. The police added that it “acts as much as possible
to provide minors it interrogates in the Judea and Samaria Area with the rights entrenched in the Youth Law, even in cases in which the Law does not apply. However, this is done beyond any legal obligation and only insofar as it is possible”. Nonetheless, the police said that if HaMoked provided it with the criminal-file numbers of the minors from whom it had collected the testimonies, as well as with the testimonies themselves – with any identifying details redacted – the police guaranteed “the examination by us will be conducted without any repercussions for those who were interrogated”. Furthermore, the police said that at this stage, it would forward HaMoked’s letter to the police stations belonging to the Samaria and Judea district, “with an instruction to continue ensuring the required steps [are taken] in the interrogation of minors”.