Thursday, November 23, 2017

Palestinian children in East Jerusalem exposed to "various forms of violence"


By Bao Yen - April 11, 2016
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Features] [Behind Bars]
Tags: [Jerusalem] [child arrests] [Violence against children] [Occupation]

Silwan, Jerusalem. Photo by Marta Vidal. 

On an early Saturday afternoon, Nour, 16, watches his friends chatting in front of his backyard in a gritty neighborhood of Beit Hanina, few kilometers away from central Jerusalem.
Nour, who spoke to the Palestine Monitor on the condition of anonymity, has been under house arrest since last July on suspicion of throwing stones. Since then, he has been allowed to go out twice a week, two hours each time, and always accompanied by his father. For this reason, he is unable to go to school.
Nour's mother, Abir, says he is held under indefinite house arrest until the end of the legal procedure. Until now, the family has served twenty court hearings.

"I think my future has already finished," says Nour.

Nour is among approximately 700 Palestinian children arrested, interrogated and prosecuted in the Israeli military judicial system each year. As of February 2016, Addameer, a Palestinian human rights NGO, recorded that 406 Palestinian minors were being kept in Israeli prison. House arrest, however, is a common and unique punishment for Palestinian juveniles in East Jerusalem.

Child detention in East Jerusalem

 

Unlike the West Bank, East Jerusalem is compelled to Israeli civil and security control. Palestinians living in the area are granted status as permanent residents of Israel, they are obliged to Israeli law, without having official Israeli citizenship.
Directly subject to Israeli law, Palestinian children in East Jerusalem are placed among the most vulnerable groups of children in occupied Palestinian territories. In November 2015, the Knesset drafted law that imposes custodial sentences on children as young as 12, who are convicted of “nationalistic-motivated” violent offenses. The proposed bill targets Palestinian children in Jerusalem and Palestinian citizens of Israel.
"If we take East Jerusalem as a case, [Palestinian] children live in an atmosphere filled with Israeli settlements and checkpoints,” Bashar Jamal, Advocacy Officer for Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), tells the Palestine Monitor.
“This exposes them to various forms of violence, such as being attacked by settlers, or being shot by Israeli army during protests," he adds.
A 2013 UNICEF report titled “Children in Israeli Military Detention” found that Israel's detention of Palestinian children violates both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The report concludes that "ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process."
In East Jerusalem, the arrest of Palestinian children also contravenes the Israeli Youth Law, which theoretically renders Israeli and Palestinian children "equal" under legal protection, Bashar explains.
The Israeli Youth Law, as amended in 2008, stipulates that a minor is entitled to have a parent or relative present at the interrogation. The law further states that the child should not be arrested if the objective can be achieved in a less harmful way and that night arrests should be avoided.
When it is applied to Palestinian children, however, exceptions have become the norm, and official statistics suggest a different reality.
DCIP's latest findings based on testimonies of 65 Palestinian children in East Jerusalem detained between January and December 2015, show that a majority of children - roughly 90 percent - were arrested from homes, handcuffed, interrogated without the presence of their parents and forced to sign documents in Hebrew.
An alarming rate among those, almost 40 percent, were subjected to both verbal and physical abuses during interrogation. The most common charge for Palestinian minors, Bashar says, is throwing stones.
Throwing stones, as a specific offense, can risk up to 10 years in prison, according to the new law. "All of this is in order to restore quiet and security throughout Jerusalem," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time of the law’s introduction.



Nour's mother, Abir, shows a stack of notices the family have received in the past months. Everything is written in Hebrew, but no one in the family speaks the language. Photo by Bao Yen.

 

The socio-psychological tolls of arrest

 

News of arrests in Beit Hanina is routine. Out of Nour’s group of friends, all have either been jailed or placed under house arrest for throwing stones. Nour's psychologist, Reem Sadaa, says his condition has worsened over the past month, as most of his friends have finished their sentences, while Nour's judgment is still unclear.
Israeli forces entered Nour's house on a June evening last year, around 9.30 p.m. He was taken to a police station in Jerusalem, where he was imprisoned for two weeks without trial.
"When I was arrested, I felt like the end of the world. They beat me during the interrogation. They beat me when I was alone. They beat me when I was in prison with a group," Nour says of his time in prison.
While in prison, he was given a document in Hebrew without any explanation, and was forced to sign it.
Nour often appears distracted. He nervously bites his fingers. Nour says whenever he is angry, he punches his hand to the wall, as a way to unleash his feelings. Nour's psychologist says he displays symptoms of PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"[Israeli detention] is traumatic. We have worked with many children who have symptoms of PTSD after their arrests or detention," Ibtisam Adileh, Supervisor of YMCA's Rehabilitation Program in East Jerusalem, tells the Palestine Monitor.
EJ YMCA provides psychological counseling for children who are under house arrests or who suffer PTSD due to their experiences being imprisoned. Their rehabilitation program also works with the child's family and their community to facilitate their reintegration into the society after the arrest.
Reem, also a staff at EJ YMCA, says many of her other clients who are Palestinian children who have been previously detained have developed depression with an avoidance tendency when they are returned to the society.
Back in Nour's house, Abir, his mother, shows the Palestine Monitor a stack of notices sent to the family from the court. Everything is written in Hebrew, and none of the family members speaks the language.
Abir says that Nour's detention has changed the whole atmosphere in the family. Nour sometimes yells back at his mother and starts throwing objects on the table whenever he suffers from anxiety. Abir has become so stressed with the situation that she herself also has to seek help from psychiatrist.
Nour's next court session - the twenty-first - is scheduled for the following Thursday. The court told the family that this time there would be witnesses, but Nour says he will continue to deny the charge. Abir, however, is not so confident. "I don't want my son to go to prison," Abir breaks down in tears.
 

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