This morning, 22 June 2014, human rights organizations active in the Occupied Territories sent an urgent letter to the heads of the Israeli security establishment and military commanders in the West Bank, demanding that they refrain from collectively punishing the civilian Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of Operation Brother’s Keeper. The letter also demanded that the more stringent restrictions imposed on the detention conditions of Palestinian prisoners be withdrawn.
Detainees & prisoners
As part of efforts to locate the 3 abducted students stringent travel restrictions were imposed on Hebron District residents on Sat., 14 June. Some restrictions constitute unlawful collective punishment: barring entrance to Israel by Hebron residents with permits; prohibiting 16 to 50-year-old male Hebron residents travel to Jordan. Other collective punishment: a ban on family visits to Palestinian prisoners in Israel. Politicians’ statements raise grave concerns that Israel will adopt measures designed to harm and pressure local Palestinians.
On 9 June 2014, a bill to force feed prisoners passed first reading in the Israeli Knesset. The bill was initiated by the Ministry of Public Security in response to a hunger strike by Palestinian inmates. Force feeding hunger strikers is a violation of their dignity, right to autonomy over their body and right to protest by whatever means they choose. It also violates medical ethics. Instead of punishing people protesting their unlawful detention, Israel should change its administrative detention policy, which defies international law.
Police fails to protect the girls from settler violence but finds the resources to vigorously enforce the law on children for minor suspicions. On Tues. May 27, the police detained four Palestinian girls after a Ma’on settler accused them of picking cherries from his grove. The police took them to the station without adult accompaniment, interrogated two of them and, after four hours, handed them over to the Palestinian Police. They were released only in the evening.
In July 2012, after a close to five year ban on all family visits to inmates from Gaza, Israel reinstated visits for adult relatives. As of 2013, children under 10 may also visit their imprisoned fathers. The arbitrary age limit means 260 Gazan children are unable to visit their fathers in Israeli prisons. The right to family life, including prison visits, is enshrined in both international and Israeli law. B’Tselem renews its call to allow prison visits to Gazan inmates by all first-degree relatives, and especially by their children.
On 24 April 2014, Palestinian administrative detainees held in Israel announced a hunger strike to protest Israel’s of administrative detention. According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, some 130 are now on strike. Israel is currently holding 191 Palestinians in administrative detention, i.e. without trial, in breach of international law, which allows such imprisonment only in exceptional cases as a last resort to prevent danger. The government must release all administrative detainees or prosecute them, in accordance with due process.
On Fri. 28 Mar. 2014 soldiers went up to the Sidrs’ roof. They filmed Shadi Sidr, his brother and a friend in the street below and aimed their weapons at them. Sidr demanded the soldiers explain their presence; they demanded he leave. After the filmed exchange, the soldiers unjustifiably detained the three men for hours. Soldiers are allowed virtually unrestricted access to Palestinian homes, thereby violating people’s privacy and property. B’Tselem sent a complaint to the Legal Advisor in Judea and Samaria regarding the unjustified detention.
On 17 March The military cancelled the family visits–permitted once every 2-3 months–to Gazans being held in Israel. In view of rocket-fire from Gaza targeting communities in southern Israel, the military announced on 12 Mar. 2014 that passage through Erez Crossing would be restricted to humanitarian cases and Kerem Shalom Crossing would be closed. This led to even greater power shortages in Gaza as Israel held up delivery of diesel to power Gaza’s electric plant. B’Tselem calls on Israel to refrain from collective punishment of Gaza residents.
On Sunday, 21 July 2013, B’Tselem camera volunteer Raed Abu Ermeileh filmed video footage of a police officer slapping a detainee, who appeared to be a minor. He slapped the detainee several times on the nape of the neck, while leading him out of a Hebron police station. The detainee was put inside a vehicle parked outside the station, three police officers got in, and the vehicle drove off. Its many attempts notwithstanding, B’Tselem has been unable to identify the detainee.
On 22 July 2013, the Israeli military's Legal Advisor in Judea and Samaria responded to B'Tselem's letter regarding the grave incident in which soldiers detained a five-year-old boy in Hebron for two hours, after he threw a stone. In his letter, the legal advisor addressed the general issue of soldiers having to deal with a complex reality in which children under the age of criminal responsibility throw stones. Regarding the detention of Wadi' Maswadeh, the advisor justified the soldiers' conduct. B'Tselem sent a reply, emphasizing that the soldiers had acted in a fundamentally unacceptable way throughout the incident, and that acknowledging the complexity of the reality in which they operate cannot justify blatantly unlawful violation of children's rights and harm to their welfare.
B'Tselem has written urgently to the Legal Adviser in Judea and Samaria, demanding his response to a grave incident in which soldiers detained a five-year-old boy in Hebron for two hours, after he threw a stone. The soldiers threatened the child and his parents, handcuffed and blindfolded the father, and handed the boy over to the Palestinian Police. Detaining a child below the age of criminal responsibility, especially one so young, has no legal justification.
The military court trial of Nariman a-Tamimi and Rana Hamadah, two Palestinian women arrested at a non-violent demonstration in a-Nabi Saleh, will begin on 9 July 2013. This legal action is unprecedented, as there is no charge of violence. Moreover, the prosecution acknowledged it wishes to prevent the women from demonstrating – unacceptable grounds for arrest. B’Tselem: “The military prosecution’s handling of the matter, and particularly its unprecedented request to remand non-violent demonstrators for the duration of legal proceedings, raises the suspicion that the military might be exploiting these proceedings to keep Nariman a-Tamimi from carrying on her joint activity with her husband, Bassem, in a-Nabi Saleh’s struggle against the village being dispossessed of its land.”
On Sunday, 26 May 2013, the military came to the home of the ‘Awads in Budrus to arrest ‘Abd a-Rahim ‘Awad. A younger son, Samir, had been killed by Israeli soldiers in January. In the course of the arrest, soldiers used force against ‘Abd a-Rahim and his family. The military stated that the family had violently resisted the arrest and that the soldiers’ response was “minimal”. To justify the soldiers’ behavior, the military released an edited video clip showing a small part of the incident. B’Tselem’s research indicates that, contrary to the military’s version, the soldiers acted violently from the very start, even before the family had a chance to resist. When ‘Abd a-Rahim’s family tried to protect him, the soldiers responded with violence and also heavily damaged the house.
In September 2012, Israel’s Public Defender's office published a report on the isolation of inmates in Israeli prisons. The report criticized the isolation of minors and called for this measure to be restricted or limited in scope. The Israel Prison Service (IPS) provided B’Tselem with figures indicating that, from Jan. 2007 to 28 April 2013, 5,602 inmates were held in isolation, among them 1,493 Palestinians. Of these, 244 were minors, including 76 teenagers who were held in isolation on 100 separate occasions. The international standards set by the UN absolutely forbid holding minors in isolation.
Some 511 Gazan men, including 14 minors, are currently being held as prisoners and detainees in Israel. In July 2012, after a five-year hiatus, family visits to Gazan inmates in Israel were resumed. From that time until 22 April 2013, most of the inmates have received visits. Israel permits inmates to be visited by their parents, wives and children under eight years old; children over eight, siblings and grandparents are not allowed to visit. Permission for children under the age of eight to visit their imprisoned fathers was granted only in May 2013. B’Tselem calls upon the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) to allow all first-degree relatives, including children of all ages, to visit Gazans being held in Israel.
On 9 September 2012 B’Tselem contacted the Dept. for the Investigation of Police (DIP) demanding an investigation of Border Police officers who allegedly assaulted Sa’id Qiblawi, 14. According to testimonies B’Tselem collected, Qiblawi was arrested near his home by Border Police who were being stoned. A policeman dragged Qiblawi along the ground and put him into a jeep, where he was beaten. On 2 May 2013 the DIP informed B’Tselem that upon conclusion of the investigation, the case was closed for lack of evidence. B’Tselem applied to the DIP on behalf of the complainant’s family, requesting the investigative material in order to explore the option of appealing the closing of the case.
On 24 April 2013, as has been a frequent occurrence of late, settlers from Giv’at Gal came onto the privately owned land of the Zaro family, of Hebron. The landowners called the police to report the trespassing. Israeli soldiers came to the scene and, rather than sending the settlers away, arrested the Palestinians. Part of the incident was filmed by a volunteer in B’Tselem’s camera project. The detainees were released the following day by a military judge after this footage was presented in court and it was proven that the there was no justification for the arrest, which involved violence towards one of the Zaros.
On the morning of 20 March 2013, the Israeli military detained nearly 30 Palestinian minors on their way to school in Hebron, many of whom were under the age of criminal responsibility (12). Later that day, B’Tselem wrote to the Legal Advisor in Judea and Samaria, the Legal Advisor of the Israel Police and to the spokesperson for the Judea and Samaria Division regarding this issue. The officials confirmed that, further to a stone-throwing incident earlier that morning, the military apprehended 27 minors, including at least 14 under the age of 12. Later, the military released 20 of the minors to the custody of the Palestinian Authority. The other seven minors were questioned by the police. B’Tselem stressed the following: minors should not be questioned without their parents’ knowledge and the presence of an adult representative on their behalf; the police is duty-bound to inform parents immediately upon the detention of their children; it is unlawful to detain or transport minors under the age of 12.
Following the announcement that an investigation was opened into the circumstances surrounding the death of Arafat Jaradat, a Palestinian resident of Sa'ir, who was detained at Megido Prison, B'Tselem stated that the investigation must relate to the full circumstances of the event, and not only to the conduct of those directly responsible for his wellbeing at the time.
Following a petition to the High Court of Justice contesting the inflated and discriminatory periods of detention applicable to Palestinian minors in the West Bank, the military has amended the relevant military legislation. The change, slated to take effect in April 2013, requires that minors under the age of 14 be brought before a judge within 24 hours of detention and minors aged 14-18 within 48 hours. Currently, military law in the West Bank does not distinguish between minors and adults with respect to duration of detention. The change is welcome news, although the maximum periods of detention are still too long - twice what is permissible inside Israel.