RAMALLAH, May 31 (JMCC) - A 14-year-old boy from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan tells how he
was arrested in the dark and held for over a week without being charged.
Rights groups charge Israel with a wave of arrests of children in Silwan, breaking Israeli regulations on the treatment of children in custody.
Suhaib nodded, took a sip of lemonade, and began, the words spilling swiftly from his mouth. After the police stormed into his house and arrested him, along with the other boys, he was moved into the police car and then to a facility called Room 4. (Suhaib: “The interrogator asked me if I knew why it was called Room 4. I said I did not, and so he told me that it is called Room 4 because this is where you Arabs leave on all fours, crawling like a baby after we’ve finished with you”). There, the interrogators handcuffed Suhaib and hit his head, both with fists and with keys, calling him names and taunting him as their blows rained down. He was then made to sign a document in Hebrew stating that he had not been physically abused. Suhaib, who cannot read Hebrew, and signed the document.
According to Israeli Human Rights group B’Tselem, the Israeli law known as the Youth Law mandates that a minor’s parents be present during any interrogation (this same law also forbids arresting children in the middle of the night and enacting violence against them while they are held). Suhaib told me that his father was not called in until 11:00 the next morning. When his father arrived, he was cautioned not to talk directly to his son. The investigation proceeded: they asked Suhaib a number of questions, all of which he declined to answer. Then, all the detectives left the room.
“I took the chance, and told my father that I had been beaten. I think that they were listening, because they came in right away and told my father to leave, and that the investigation was finished. I asked if I could go too, and they laughed. My father left, and the men started hitting me again, and saying that my mother is a whore. They left me in the room without food until midnight.”
Suhaib’s interrogation continued for the next ten days, during which he eventually found out he was accused of teaching other boys how to build Molotov Cocktails, which he denied. During these ten days, Suhaib was kept in a room that stank of feces and rotten food. He was hit with a chair and threatened with a knife. He was also told that if he did not admit he was guilty he would be “taken to an electric chair to help him.” On the fourth day, Suhaib was put into a police car along with another boy “to be taken to the electric chair.” The two exchanged some of their experiences and advised each other on what not to say. Video footage of this conversation was shown to him on the 10th day and was used as a confession. Suhaib continued to deny that he was guilty.
The detective extracted sentences from the conversation in the car, and forced Suhaib to sign the statement. After signing, Suhaib was held for twenty more days. During this period, he was moved into a cell with adults. “They were regular criminals, some of them were rapists and some were drug addicts, and they tried to beat me also.”
He was then moved into cell of his own, where the floor was wet from a small toilet which was overflowing with excrement. Next, he was moved back with another one of the boys. There the guards prevented them from sleeping.
“Whenever we would fall asleep, they would start banging on the cell door and screaming ‘Wake up, boys! You’d better watch out for the rats!’ Or they would point laser pointers at ours eyes until we woke up.” During the whole time he was held, Suhaib was not allowed to see his family again, and the police allowed him to call his parents only twice. After 30 days, Suhaib was released, having lost over 20 pounds during his detention. He was sentenced to house arrest at his grandmother’s house and his family was required to post a deposit of 50,000 Shekels (about $15,000) in case he violated the conditions of his house arrest. One of those conditions was that Suhaib, who should be in 9th grade, was prevented from returning to school.