B'Tselem recently uncovered a number of cases in which minors aged 12-15 from Silwan, in East Jerusalem, were arrested in the middle of the night by police officers and Israel Security Agency agents accompanied by armed border policemen. In four cases documented by B'Tselem, the minors were taken from their beds and homes and brought, their hands cuffed, to interrogation at the police station in the Russian Compound, in West Jerusalem. The parents of the children were not allowed to accompany them. The minors were then interrogated on suspicion of stone throwing. Testimonies given to B'Tselem indicate that, during the questioning, the interrogators beat and threatened them. The detention of one of them, a 14-year-old, was extended for seven days. The rest were released. There are indications that several other minors were similarly arrested and interrogated.
The ongoing friction between residents of Silwan and the settlers in nearby Beit Yehonatan and security personnel guarding it, in which context Palestinian children in the neighborhood throw stones at the building, is apparently the reason for the arrests.
The authorities' treatment of the minors completely contravenes the Youth Law, as amended in 2008 (Amendment No. 14). Under the Law, a minor who is suspected of committing a criminal offense may consult as a rule, with a parent or other relative prior to being questioned, and the parent or relative may be present during the questioning. The Law also prohibits, other than in exceptional cases, questioning a minor at night, and states that, if the objective can be achieved in a less harmful way, the minor should not be arrested. In the present case, some of the parents were willing to undertake to bring the minors in the morning for questioning, and there was no need for the night operation.
The actions by the authorities severely violated the human rights of the minors, all of whom are Israeli permanent residents. A military-style operation conducted in the middle of the night, with the aim of detaining for interrogation minors aged 12-15 suspected of stone throwing is illogical and unjustifiable on any grounds. It is hard to believe that the security forces would have acted similarly with Jewish minors.
B'Tselem has sent urgent letters to the Jerusalem police commander, Maj. Gen. Ilan Franco, and to the head of the Department of the Investigation of Police, Herzl Shviro, calling for an end to police, ISA, and Border Police operations to detain minors in Silwan. If any child from the neighborhood is suspected of having committed a criminal offense, he can be summoned for questioning in the presence of an adult on his behalf. Also, the questioning must be conducted by youth interrogators.