Over 100 imprisoned Palestinian children have reported that they were mistreated by the IDF while in custody. The Palestinian section of the Geneva-based human rights group, Defence for Children International (DCI), has collected the affidavits and is asking the UN to probe the assaults.
The testimonies of the minors follow a fixed pattern. The minors reported that they were beaten, verbally abused, blindfolded, coerced into confession, threatened, and some even reported sexual abuse. Indeed, 97% were handcuffed for long periods of time, 92% were blindfolded for long periods of time, and 69% were beaten. You can click here for the full list of statistics.
26% reported they were placed in uncomfortable positions during interrogations, and were cursed and threatened by the IDF attempts to extract confessions. Some were also coerced to confess based on false promises of release (Haaretz).
The most disturbing accounts are those of sexual abuse. Four minors reported sexual abuse and 12 more faced threats of sexual abuse. These accounts were difficult for the DCI lawyers to extract, as this is a touchy subject, and there may be many more who faced the same circumstances but are too humiliated to recount their experiences.
The Israeli justice system is very unjust towards Palestinian children. The IDF interrogates children without relatives or lawyers of the children present and allows them to see their lawyers only briefly before the trial starts. 700 Palestinians are arrested annually, and 300 are held in different facilities every month. About 60% of arrested children are accused of stone throwing, which carries a 20 year maximum incarceration sentence (Haaretz).
Israel has dismissed the allegations, claiming their interrogations are in accordance with international law. However, Bana Shoughry-Badarne, head of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, notes Israel has a problem in dealing with complaints. In 2009, all 600 complaints were dismissed. She says: “There was not even one criminal investigation.”
There seems to be something grossly wrong with Israel’s justice system. When officers break the law, there is no hope for equitable justice. Perhaps that is why the imprisoned children are hesitant to complain; they cannot have faith in such a hypocritical system. The recent complaints do offer credence though, as such fixed patterns of abuse cannot be labeled as unsubstantial. By abusing imprisoned children, Israel is breaking their psyches and making them subordinate. It is indeed a form of psychological warfare that aims at subduing the next generation of Palestinians. Hopefully the Palestinians will be able to break the cycle if they keep coming forward with their experiences, which will give them international attention and leverage that they can use in the interest of justice.