[Photo: One of the detained children being taken to the army jeep in March 2013]
Elham Asaad Buaras
A damning report by an international children right group has revealed a rising numbers of Palestinian children are being subjected to solitary confinement for interrogation purposes in Israeli detention centres.
The report by Defense for Children International (DCI) released on May 12 came just months after Israel’s army, under international pressure to introduce reforms, agreed to test alternative treatment for children it detains in the West Bank.
DCI’s research included 98 sworn affidavits from Palestinian children aged 12 to 17.
In 21.4 percent of cases recorded by DCI-Palestine in 2013, children detained in the Israeli military detention system reported undergoing solitary confinement as part of the interrogation process. This was a two-percent rise on 2012 figures when 21 out of 108 children detained were placed in solitary confinement, it added.
Children held in solitary confinement during the reporting period spent an average of 10 days in isolation. The longest period of confinement documented in a single case was 29 total days in 2012, and 28 total days in 2013.
In 85 percent of cases children held in solitary confinement reported being arrested from their homes in the middle of the night.
Children report that heavily armed Israeli soldiers arrest them in violent circumstances during night raids on their family homes.
Children are often woken up by the sound of Israeli soldiers banging on the front door before a family member opens the door or the soldiers force their way in, storming the home.
Soldiers gather all the occupants of the house, regardless of their age, in one room or outside and then demand identification. Once a child’s identity has been verified from his identification card, his family will be informed that he must accompany the soldiers.
This moment is most likely the last time the family will see their child until he appears in a military court following an unknown period of solitary confinement and interrogation.
Children and their parents are rarely informed of the reasons for arrest, the charges against them, or where the child is being taken.
There is no official notification process to inform parents where their child will be or has been taken by the Israeli military.
In 95 percent of cases neither the parents nor the child were notified of the reasons for arrest or detention.
According to DCI an estimated 8,000 Palestinian children have been detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system since 2000. They are arrested, interrogated and detained by a variety of Israeli authorities, including Israel’s army, police and security agents, the report says.
“Use of isolation against Palestinian children as an interrogation tool is a growing trend,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish of DCI in the occupied Palestinian territories.
“This is a violation of children’s rights and the international community must demand justice and accountability,” he said.
“The use of solitary confinement by Israeli authorities does not appear to be related to any disciplinary, protective, or medical rationale.”
In October, the UN children’s fund (UNICEF) said Israel had agreed to test alternative treatment for Palestinian children arrested in the West Bank.
These included issuing summons instead of arresting children at their homes in violent, overnight raids that often lead into street battles with locals who confront the occupation forces.
But UNICEF said that “ongoing” violations by the army were rife and included physical violence and verbal abuse.
Over the past decade, Israeli forces have arrested, interrogated and prosecuted around 7,000 children between 12 and 17, mostly boys, UNICEF found, noting the rate was equivalent to “an average of two children each day.”