HaMoked writes again to the Israel Police to address the systematic rights violations in the interrogation of West Bank Palestinian minors; “Raising the broad phenomena, repeated in hundreds of interrogations, is the only way to focus attention on the problems and attempt to solve them”.
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. 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, the police dismissed
HaMoked’s claims, but nonetheless added 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”.
Therefore, on March 20, 2018, HaMoked sent the police another letter
, attaching to it the relevant sections of four affidavits collected from minors arrested in 2017 – as the police had requested and “in the hope… that a systemic overhaul of the flaws will begin”.
These affidavits illustrate many of the phenomena addressed by HaMoked in its previous letters, including traumatic night-time arrests – because of which minors enter the interrogations frightened and exhausted; informal interrogations accompanied by beatings and threats; and the routine violation of the minors’ most fundamental rights, such as the right not to incriminate themselves, the right to counsel and the right to have their parents present during the interrogation.
Thus related a minor from Beit Ummar in the Hebron district, who was arrested at the age of 16 in April 2017, about what he went through from the time he was arrested by the military in the middle of the night and until his interrogation began:
I was arrested from home on April 19, 2017, at 3:00 AM. […] at the entrance downstairs they blindfolded me and handcuffed my hands behind my back with a cable tie. They took me to the jeep waiting there. They put me on the floor of the jeep. They made me sit in a crouching position. […] Throughout the trip two soldiers kept beating me on the back of the neck, almost the whole time. Twice the soldiers took photos of me with their cell phones and laughed. […] They also cursed all the time. They took me out to a room […]. All the time [I was] in the same crouching position, with my hands tied behind my back and still blindfolded. They did not give me food or drink. I asked to go to the bathroom. They allowed it after a half an hour delay. […] At 9 [AM] they took me to Etzion [police station]. Straight to the interrogation. The soldier handed me over to the interrogator. That is how he described himself.
And thus he described what occurred, first during the informal interrogation and then the formal interrogation:
The interrogator took me behind the interrogation room, outside […]. The interrogator said I threw stones and petrol bombs, and I said it was not true. He held a stick and started pricking me with the stick in the belly and the shoulder. I estimate this went on for maybe two hours. The shoving [with the stick] felt like knife stabbings. It hurt me. I shouted from the pain. I felt like he was completely tearing me apart. He threatened to put me inside a refrigerator!! He kept on threatening me, shouting and beating me until I confessed. He got a false confession. I wanted it to stop. He promised that if I confessed he would release me and send me home. When he got what he wanted, he took me inside the room. He took off my blindfold and handcuffs and got me to sit on the chair facing him […]. He said “Wait, you’ll go home soon”. I waited for about an hour. He got me to sign a document he must have written down by hand when I was blindfolded and now typed into the computer […]. He did not speak of any right. He did not bring any food or drink, except for a blue coloured egg, which I could not eat. I threw it away.
That evening, the teenager was transferred to Ofer Prison and was kept in detention.
In its letter HaMoked emphasized once again that its letters to the police were not intended to bring about a criminal investigation against any particular interrogator, but to put the issue on the police’s agenda, in order for it to conduct a systematic overhaul to eradicate the abuse illustrated by the minors’ testimonies. “Correcting systemic flaws cannot arise from, or it is difficult for it to arise from any individual complaint. Raising the broad phenomena, which are repeated in hundreds of interrogations of minors, is the only way to focus attention on the problems and attempt to solve them.”