The news report from The Independent is followed by PCATI’s new statement.
Snow in Jerusalem last December. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90/Times of Israel)
Israel government ‘tortures’ Palestinian children by keeping them in cages, human rights group says
By Adam Withnall, The Independent
January 01, 2014
An Israeli human rights organisation has accused the government of torturing Palestinian children after it emerged some were kept in outdoor cages during winter.
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) published a report which claimed children suspected of minor crimes were subjected to “public caging”, threats and acts of sexual violence and military trials without representation.
It came as the government’s Public Petitions Committee held a hearing to discuss the issue, which the PCATI said must be addressed with a change to the law.
The country’s Public Defender’s Office (PDO) recently released details of one particularly shocking visit by its lawyers to a detention facility.
“During our visit, held during a fierce storm that hit the state, attorneys met detainees who described to them a shocking picture: in the middle of the night dozens of detainees were transferred to the external iron cages built outside the IPS transition facility in Ramla,” the PDO wrote on its website.
“It turns out that this procedure, under which prisoners waited outside in cages, lasted for several months, and was verified by other officials.”
According to the Jerusalem Post, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni called for the practice of keeping children in cages to be stopped as soon as she learned of it, and the prison service issued a statement saying the situation had been improved following the “criticism”.
The PCATI said this was not enough, and called for the country’s relatively high threshold for what can be classed “acts of abuse” to be lowered in the case of children.
Their report argued: “Torture is a means of attacking an individual’s fundamental modes of psychological and social functioning” as described in the Istanbul Protocol. Furthermore, “torture can impact a child directly or indirectly. The impact can be due to the child’s having been tortured or detained, the torture of parents or close family members or witnessing torture and violence.”
It said the incident in Ramla was just one example of a broad range of abuses being suffered.
Yesterday the Knesset committee said Israeli law as it currently exists was being violated by the manner of arrest and detention conditions of Palestinian children, the Post reported.
A young Palestinian sits inside a mock cage with his hands tied in chains during a protest after Friday prayer to call for the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails in Gaza City on 27 April 2012. Photo by Mohammed Abed / AFP
The committee also took issue with the fact that the government appeared not to keep records of the frequency or scope of disputed practices like midnight arrests.
The PCATI quoted figures from the campaign group Defence for Children International’s Palestine section, saying: “The majority of Palestinian child detainees are charged with throwing stones, and 74 per cent experience physical violence during arrest, transfer or interrogation.”
It said Israel was the only country to systematically prosecute children in its military courts, and added that “no Israeli children come into contact with the military court system”.
December 31, 2013
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) Notes with increasing alarm and condemnation Israel’s failure to protect Palestinian children from direct and indirect torture and ill treatment
Torture Destroys Childhood, Families, Society
With the Israeli Knesset’s Public Petitions Committee (being held today) meeting on “Conditions of arrest and imprisonment of Palestinian youth in East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria (sic)” PCATI reminds Knesset Members and their constituentsthat torture and ill treatment are absolutely prohibited and that Israel’s legislature must anchor this prohibition in its domestic law.
The Istanbul Protocol Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture Raises the following issues regarding torture and children which must be understood:
Perpetrators [of torture] often attempt to justify their acts of torture and ill-treatment by the need to gather information…One of the central aims of torture is to reduce an individual to a position of extreme helplessness and distress … Thus, torture is a means of attacking an individual’s fundamental modes of psychological and social functioning. The torturer attempts to destroy a victim’s sense of being grounded in a family and society as a human being with dreams, hopes and aspirations for the future. In addition, torture can profoundly damage intimate relationships between spouses, parents, children, other family members and relationships between the victims and their communities (Para. 235)… Torture can impact a child directly or indirectly. The impact can be due to the child’s having been tortured or detained, the torture of parents or close family members or witnessing torture and violence. When individuals in a child’s environment are tortured, the torture will inevitably have an impact on the child, albeit indirect, because torture affects the entire family and community of torture victims… Adolescence is a turbulent developmental period. The effects of torture can vary widely. Torture experiences may cause profound personality changes in adolescents resulting in antisocial behaviour. Alternatively, the effects of torture on adolescents may be similar to those seen in younger children (Para. 310 &312).
PCATI has received in its offices dozens of complaints of torture and ill treatment from children in the last 10 years. Currently PCATI is actively working on cases concerning children’s complaints of torture and ill treatment at the hands of Israeli soldiers and interrogators.[*] PCATI is gravely concerned by reports from NGOs such as Psychoactive, Military Court Watch, Breaking the Silence, DCI Palestine, the Israeli Public Defenders office, B’Tselem and other organizations in civil society, of torture and ill treatment of children which included caging prisoners in iron cages (including children), abusive interrogations, detentions and arrests.
PCATI emphasizes that failure to allow the arrested child or minor to full enjoyment of his or her rights, including the failure to allow for an attorney or accompanying adult at the time of arrest and interrogation places the child in a state of helplessness, distress and increases the pressure being applied to the child by the security forces in order to achieve a confession or information during the interrogation.
PCATI applauds the recently announced efforts of (Defense of Children International) DCI-Palestine and Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR) to initiate a “know your rights campaign”. PCATI similarly points out that the threshold in which an act of abuse would be considered torture in the situation of an adult must be lowered when it comes to children. PCATI further emphasizes that children and adults have the right to rehabilitation and to have their complaints fully examined including by forensic experts as well as the right to be accompanied by a representative of their choosing when giving testimony to an Israeli investigator. PCATI continues to work to insure respect for these principles.
DCI-Palestine and LPHR Write:
Israel is the only nation to automatically and systematically prosecute children in military courts that lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees. Around 500-700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12 years old, are arrested, detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military detention system each year. The majority of Palestinian child detainees are charged with throwing stones, and 74 percent experience physical violence during arrest, transfer or interrogation, according to evidence collected by Defence for Children International Palestine. No Israeli children come into contact with the military court system.
PCATI reiterates that the right to be free from torture and ill treatment is absolute and calls on the Public Petitions Committee to demand that the right to be free from torture be anchored in Israeli domestic law and that it include specific provisions for the protection of all children who come into contact with any arm of Israel’s security forces.
We wish the public a 2014 of peace and full enjoyment of human rights for all.