Legal Review on Palestinian Child Prisoners submitted at
end-June 2003 to the Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on
A. Juvenile Lawsuits:
1- DCI-PS handled 185 cases up to June 2003, compared with 272
cases over the whole of 2002. This represents an increase of 36
percent over the first six months of last year.
2- Administrative detention cases (arrest and detention without
open charges or trial) are on a par with 2002 at 15 cases to date,
compared with just 2 in the whole of 2001.
Data on the geographical distribution of juvenile detainees
represented by DCI over the first-half of 2003 indicates the
i - In the Northern West Bank, cases from the Tulkarem/Qalqalyia
district have nearly doubled in percentage terms to 14.5 percent of
cases, or 24 children, compared with 21 minors over the whole of
ii- Cases affecting Bethlehem children have more than doubled in
percentage terms, to 22 individuals, equivalent to the total number
of cases from this area in 2002.
Data on the distribution of cases according to age indicates the
i- Figures show a marked decrease in cases involving 13-14 year
olds over the first-half 2003.
ii- Cases involving 15-16 year olds have risen by over 50 percent
in percentage terms in the first half 2003.
The following information is limited to cases held in the various
Israeli military courts. Of these 91 cases have been closed and 49
i- The percentage of detainees released after less than a month
more than doubled, to 23 percent of cases in the first half 2003.
The most common sentence is one to six months, involving 41 percent
ii- There has been a fall in the number of children sentenced to
between one to three years from 19 percent in 2002 to 11
iii- So far, nine children have been sentences to over three years,
compared with 17 in 2002.
B. Improving the Conditions of Child Detainees:
The DCI Legal Program has been monitoring detention conditions in
temporary detention centers in the West Bank, where children are
being held for long periods of time because of the shortage of
space in longer-term facilities.
Detention and Interrogation Centers:
There are 10 such centers in the West Bank and inside the Green
Line. Four of these are supervised by the General Intelligence
Services, while the rest are supervised by the Israeli army and
police. Detainees are first interrogated in these center after
their arrest. Files are then transferred to the court and the
military prosecution, who may issue an order to extend the
interrogation period. Treatment is often tough. There have been
reported cases where soldiers have raided facilities and attacked
detainees using teargas, batons and other weapons.
These centers are prepared to function as temporary detention
centers where detainees should be held for a maximum of two weeks.
In 2003, numerous cases have been reported of children being held
for over 3 months in these facilities. Sixteen-year old Mu'tamid
Mahmoud Tawfiq Nasasira was held in Atzion detention center from
January to June 2003.
These temporary centers have no facilities for sport, education or
providing clothing. There are no special provisions for children
under 16, and 16-18 year olds are treated as adults. As the centers
are located in military camps or settlements, family access is not
allowed and lawyers have difficulty reaching prisoners. Despite
these obstacles, DCI managed to visit these centers 18 times during
After legal procedures, juvenile detainees are usually transferred
to two kinds of prisons; military prisons or central prisons.
Miltary prisons are supervised by the army and administered by the
military police. Until 2002, Megiddo was the only military prison
detaining juveniles. After the reoccupation of Palestinian cities
in March-April 2002, the military authorities reopened Ofer prison
near Ramallah and Ketziot in the Negev. Detainees aged 16 and over
are held in these prisons. As of mid-June, there were around 28
child administrative detainees in Ketziot, where conditions are
reckoned to be the worst in the Israeli detention system, given the
squalor, poor hygiene and the excessive heat of the desert. Medical
care and education are not provided as a matter of routine. Megiddo
military prison, however, has a health clinic on-site, better food
and hygiene, but no formal education. Lack of parental visits is
the key concern for the detainees and is a problem for all child
detainees held in prisons inside Israel.
These prisons are under the control of the Israeli Interior
Security Ministry and are administered by a prison police force.
The prisons are located in Israel, and include two prisons for
child detainees; Hasharon for boys and Ramle for girls.
Hasharon Prison, primarily for adult Israeli criminal detainees,
has a special department for Palestinian child detainees. By
mid-2003, there were around 66 boys aged 14-18 in the facility.
There is one teacher in the prison providing short classes every
other day in three subjects. The boys are subject to frequent raids
and body searches. A system of monetary fines means prisoners are
frequently unable to pay for their basic needs, including food from
a (paying) canteen. In some cases, the lack of family and external
financial support means prisoners are going short of essential
nutrients because of the poor quality of the food on offer. There
are also shortages in clothing, personal items and educational
Ramle Prison, primarily for Israeli female criminal detainees, has
several rooms assigned to Palestinian female child and adult
detainees. There are currently around 11 girl detainees in this
prison, aged 14-18.
Treatment in this prison is particularly hard, with reports of
frequent raids and punishments including solitary confinement.
There is no formal education for prisoners and medical care is
totally inadequate. There is no formal education for the girls, and
they lack materials and books to study from. In addition, the girls
are also charged monetary fines for various 'offences', which means
that they are also short of money to buy food, and lack clothing
and personal items.
C. Monitoring and Follow Up of Incidents of Child Torture: Physical
and psychological torture remain an all-too-frequent experience for
adult and child detainees as Israel continues to flout its
commitments under the International Convention against Torture and
the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Children are frequently arrested in the middle of the night by a
group of armed soldiers. After being handcuffed and blindfolded,
they are transferred in a military jeep to a detention center.
During this journey they are frequently exposed to beatings, verbal
abuse and threats to the victim or his/her family. At the detention
center, prisoners may again be beaten, threatened and sometimes
tied in painful positions to extract a confession. Children are
often asked to sign a piece of paper written in Hebrew, which they
don't understand. This turns out to be a "confession," which is
then used to convict prisoners.
Israeli troops arrested Bayan Najajira the night of 24 March 2003,
the day after his 14th birthday. In his affidavit, he described the
"I was arrested at the family home at 2 a.m. The family - including
children - was forced to stand outside in the rain as they searched
our home. I was forced into a jeep and beaten on the head, back and
legs with rifle butts. The IDF soldiers threatened to demolish our
home and sexually assault me."
He was taken to Atzion detention center, where he was interrogated
without legal representation. Bayan told the DCI lawyer that he was
frightened during the interrogation and when the interrogators
accused him of something, he confessed. When they had finished,
they asked him to sign a document in Hebrew (Bayan speaks only
Arabic), so that he could be released, adding that he was too young
to be charged. The document turned out to be a confession to nine
minor charges of stone throwing, arson and grafitti.
On March 30, 2003, the prosecutor asked the court to extend Bayan's
arrest on the basis of these charges. After negotiations with the
DCI lawyer, the prosecutor agreed to drop the first seven charges,
and reduce the others to two cases of stone throwing and one of
arson. The military court sentenced Bayan to three months
imprisonment, with a 9-month suspended sentence for 3 years, and an
NIS 2000 fine. He was subsequently released without serving his
full term because of prison overcrowding.
In a survey of seven affidavits taken from juveniles detained in
2003, all report mistreatment or torture, whether it is beating (6
out of 7), threats to person or family (5 out of 7) toilet
deprivation (4), denial of showers (4) or lack of food (7).
Mistreatment of child detainees is apparently a common experience
within the Israeli detention system. Numerous court cases, Israeli
Supreme Court rulings and international laws and conventions have
so far been unable to eradicate theses practices.