Only following HaMoked’s urgent petition was a 15-year-old boy’s detention place revealed: the military did not even tell the family their son had been taken to a hospital המוקד להגנת הפרט
Only following HaMoked’s urgent petition was a 15-year-old boy’s detention place revealed: the military did not even tell the family their son had been taken to a hospital
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Every year, hundreds of Palestinian minors are arrested in their homes late at night by the Israeli security forces, and led blindfolded and handcuffed to interrogation. The military does not notify the parents where their child is being taken, and it is often only by contacting HaMoked for assistance that they find out his whereabouts. In severe cases, if the military fails to divulge the minor’s whereabouts within 24 hours from the time of the arrest, HaMoked has to file an urgent habeas corpus petition.

Thus happened to a 15-year-old boy from a refugee camp near Hebron, who was arrested in the early morning hours of October 19, 2020. His family was told nothing about where he was being taken and they were left in apprehension concerning his fate. Their concerns were compounded by the fact that their son had undergone surgery a few days before – and an anonymous phone call they received on the evening following the arrest made them even more worried. The woman caller asked them for details about the surgery, but refused to identify herself or tell the family where the boy was or what his condition was. She answered their pleading by saying the police forbade her to give any information.

Despite HaMoked’s efforts, the military did not divulge the whereabouts of the teenager. Twice on October 20, 2020, HaMoked was told by the military control center – tasked with collating and providing real-time information of the whereabouts of Palestinian detainees held by the military or the Israel Prison Service (IPS) – that the minor “has not been traced”. HaMoked, therefore, contacted hospitals in Jerusalem, including Shaare Zedek, but was told the minor was not in their records. The Israel Police also said the minor did not appear in its detainee log.

Therefore, 36 hours into the arrest, HaMoked submitted a habeas corpus petition to the High Court of Justice (HCJ), demanding the military provide current information about the teenager’s whereabouts, and also that the military record the holding place of every detainee, particularly a minor, in real-time in order to prevent such cases from recurring. Only in the afternoon following the petition’s submission, did the State Attorney’s Office notify HaMoked that the boy had been transferred that same day to the Russian Compound jail in Jerusalem. They further notified that during the time since his arrest the boy had been held at Etzion military base, transferred for a medical checkup at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem, and then taken back to Etzion. The failure to locate him, it was claimed, arose from the fact he had been held at several location during the first 36 hours of the arrest. The State Attorney’s Office also argued that there was no room to discuss the principled issues raised in the petition, as it had run in course once it was established how events unfolded in this case.

HaMoked insisted the court should address the principled issue of the authorities’ obligation to keep reliable and up-to-date information on the whereabouts of Palestinian detainees, especially minors. But in the judgment, issued October 27, 2020, the court ruled the petition was to be deleted. Nonetheless, at end of the judgment, the justices stressed “the obvious must be reiterated: having arrested a person – let alone a minor – the state authorities must inform his relatives about the facts of his arrest and whereabouts, in order to enable them to provide the assistance he needs to protect his liberty… ‘giving information about the fact of the arrest and the detainee’s whereabouts is a cornerstone of the right to due process’”.
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