Each year, hundreds of Palestinian teenagers in the West Bank are arrested from their homes in the middle of the night, and taken handcuffed and blindfolded to interrogation centers. The Israeli military uses night arrests as its default method for bringing Palestinian minors in for interrogation, as documented in a newly published report by HaMoked: Under Cover of Darkness.
The report is based on affidavits HaMoked took from 81 boys aged 14-17 who were arrested during the years 2018-2019. The report indicates that 58 of the boys (72%) were arrested from their homes in pre-planned arrests between the hours of 11 PM and 5 AM. The vast majority did not receive a summons to interrogation prior to their arrest, which could have made the traumatic night arrest unnecessary. The night arrests often involve violations of other rights, including painful cuffing and lengthy blindfolding, and sometimes serious physical violence. Many of the boys were forcibly pulled out of their beds, taken from their homes in front of their frightened younger siblings. In most cases, the soldiers did not disclose the reason for the arrest, and didn’t tell the boys’ parents where they were being taken to and how the family could be in touch with them.
These routine night arrests are not only contrary to international law, but also violate the military’s own regulations, which state that they should only be used as a last resort. In 2014, in a principled correspondence with HaMoked, the military committed to undertake a pilot program to examine whether summoning minors to interrogations is an effective alternative to night arrests. But the affidavits taken by HaMoked confirm that the pilot has hardly been implemented at all, and a few months ago the military officially excluded minors aged 16-17 – the age-group to which most arrested minors belong – from the program.
As such, this week HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice, demanding that the military uphold international law and the principle of the best interest of the child, and issue a summons if Palestinian minors are wanted for interrogation, rather than dragging them out of their beds. The petition echoes the report’s recommendations that the military apply the protections enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child to Palestinian minors.
Attorney Nadia Daqqa