RAMALLAH Feb 16 (JMCC) - Electronic Intifada interviews the director of Defense for Children International in the occupied Palestinian territories, Rifat Qassis.
AN: Can you describe the experiences of Palestinian children held in Israeli detention?
RK: You know, we found every time the same procedure described in affidavits from children, from their families and from their lawyers. Soldiers come during the night or in the early morning. They come with a lot of noise, entering violently into the house. They take the child away without any explanation given to the family. There are some other children that are arrested at the checkpoints. But when children are taken from their homes, soldiers shout, Where is Mohammed? And whether Mohammed is 12- or 13-years-old, they kick him, blindfold him, tie his hands painfully with plastic handcuffs, and put him in the back of the military jeep. There he will be beaten and kicked by soldiers. This creates a lot of psychological damage to the child. At the detention center they put the child in a cell or take him for interrogation. During the interrogation the same treatment continues of kicking and beating. There is verbal abuse, threatening the child that they will hurt his family, rape his mother.
In most cases children will confess after two or three hours of interrogation. The interrogator will give the child a piece of paper in Hebrew, a language they don't understand, and they will sign the confession. In the military court most of the children, almost 95 percent, will plead guilty, whether they committed the crime or not. The whole process is contrary to international law and conventions on the rights of the child. Last year, a military order was issued by Israel to establish a juvenile justice system in the military courts. It came into effect in October. This was in response to the accusations of the illegality of their system by all Palestinian lawyers. But my lawyers will tell you that it is still the same. Children continued to be transported with adults and they are still brought to adult military courts. There is no system of juvenile justice in the [Israeli] military courts.