At four o’clock in the morning, most children are safe and sound at home, asleep in their beds. For Adam Abu Ryalah, an eighth grader who lives in the neighborhood of al-’Esawiyah in East Jerusalem with his parents and six siblings, the walls of his home provided no protection.
At 4:00 A.M. on Sunday, 10 February 2019, when Abu Ryalah was two weeks shy of his fourteenth birthday, about eight Border Police officers knocked on the door of his home. Some 20 more officers were waiting outside. Adam’s parents, awakened by the knocking, opened the door. The officers ordered them to bring their son to the living room, offering no explanation. His father woke him up and returned to the living room with Adam in tow. An officer then took Adam back to his room, with his mother, and ordered him to get dressed. The officers detained him and took him to the Salah a-Din Street police station.
About half an hour later, Adam’s parents arrived at the Salah a-Din police station, but were told their son was not there. They waited for about 30 minutes, hoping to see him or get some sort of explanation, and then returned home. About two hours later, the parents returned to the station to ask about their son, but received no answer. After waiting for hours in a hallway, they saw him by chance at around 12:30 P.M., when an officer escorted him to the bathroom.
Adam, who had no idea why he had been pulled out of bed in the middle of the night and what he was accused of, was held at the police station on Salah a-Din Street for nine hours. He was interrogated alone, with no parents or lawyer present, and was given no food throughout the arrest. He was then taken to the Magistrates Court and the judge ordered his release to house arrests for four days. He was only released around 3:00 P.M., after being detained for 11 hours, during which time he was given nothing to eat. He was permitted to return to school after the house arrest on condition that one of his parents escorted him there and back, until 22 February 2019. After that, he resumed his normal routine.
This case is not unusual. On the contrary, it is part of a consistent policy pursued by the Israeli authorities in East Jerusalem, which does not treat Palestinian minors as entitled to special protections. Instead, arrest is almost always the measure of first, rather than last, resort, and the rights of the minors are systematically violated throughout the process. Alternatives such as issuing a summons to a police interview are never even considered. The teens remain completely alone throughout their arrest and interrogation. They are not given meaningful access to legal counsel, and have no knowledge of what their rights are or what to expect. Their parents are also kept in the dark. They are almost always barred from attending the interrogation, and no one bothers to inform them of their own rights or their child’s. This policy, which the law enforcement system would never dare use against other segments of the population in Israel, has been openly employed against hundreds of Palestinian teens a year for decades.
Adam Abu Ryalah spoke about his arrest in a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher 'Amer ‘Aruri on 12 February 2019:
On Sunday, my father woke me up at 4:00 A.M. and asked me to get up. He told me to come with him to the living room. A man in military uniform told me: “Get dressed and come with us.” I was scared. There were seven or eight other armed police officers there. I didn’t know why they wanted to take me with them. I went back to my room with one of them and my mother. I got dressed and then they took me outside. My father and mother came after us, and one of the officers told my father he could drive behind us to the police station on Salah a-Din Street. They put me in the back seat of the police car. An officer sat beside me. It was very cold, and I was shivering.
At the police station, they put me in a room and sat me down on a chair with my face to the wall. There were three police officers with me. I sat there for so many hours, my neck and back were hurting. I moved in the chair to try and ease the pain. They gave me water to drink and let me go to the bathroom twice.
After a long time, I don’t know how long, a man in civilian clothes took me to another room. He showed me a video of me running along a road, and three photos of me. The first one shows me sitting near a wall. In the second one, I’m leaning against a wall, and in the third, I’m holding a stone in my hand. The interrogator told me I was accused of throwing stones at officers. I told him there had been a fight between some teens near the ‘Arbain Mosque and that there were no police officers there. I don’t know how long they interrogated me, maybe an hour. When I left the interrogation, I asked to go to the bathroom, and the plainclothes officer took me. Then I suddenly saw my mother and father in the hallway. I felt like I was about to cry. I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t hold it in. My mother asked me if I’d had breakfast. I said I hadn’t. She got angry and said to the interrogator: “For shame – he’s a little boy”! Then they put me back in interrogation, and brought my mother into the room a little while later. She told the interrogator I’d been playing with friends and that I hadn’t thrown stones at police officers.
Then they took me to court. I cried in the car, because my father and mother weren’t with me. At first the officers handcuffed me, but it hurt, so the officers agreed to take them off before we got out of the car. I don’t know how long it took before they released me. After the release, my mother and father took me home. On the way, they explained that I wasn’t allowed to leave the house for four days and that after that, I could only go to school with one of them until 22 February 2019.
This is the second day of my house arrest. Thank God it’s a short time. I pass the time playing games on my phone and watching TV. I miss my friends and playing in the neighborhood.
Jamilah Abu Ryalah, 44, a married homemaker and mother of seven from al-’Esawiyah, spoke about her son’s arrest:
My husband and I were woken up by loud knocking on the door. When we opened it, we found police officers there. They told us to wake up our son, Adam. About eight police officers came into the house. About twenty others stayed outside. My nine-year-old son, Yazan, was woken up by the noise. He was wearing a gray and white shirt, and the officer told me to take it off him. Adam has the same shirt. They might have thought it was Adam’s. He took it.
In the meantime, Adam came to the living room with my husband. One of the officers told him to get dressed and sent another officer to escort him. I went with them. An officer gave my husband a document saying they were putting Adam under arrest and taking him to the police station on Salah a-Din Street. The officers stayed in our house for about 15 minutes.
Adam was confused and afraid and didn’t understand what was going on. The officers took him. They took Yazan’s shirt, too. We wanted to go with them, and they said we could follow them in our car. My husband and I got dressed. We called my in-laws to watch the other children and drove to the police station. The guard at the entrance said Adam wasn’t there and wouldn’t let us in. We waited about half an hour, in the rain, and then we gave up and went back home. We didn’t sleep. At 7:30 A.M., we went to the police station again. We waited there for more than four hours. We asked over and over where Adam was and when we could see him, but no one answered. At about 12:30 P.M., Adam came out of a room, escorted by a man in civilian clothing. He looked pale and cried when he saw us. I asked him if he’d eaten anything and he said no. I got angry and asked the man who was with him why they held a little boy for so long without food. He said to me: “First of all, you’re not allowed to talk to your son. Second, he’s going to court and he’ll eat there.” He took Adam to the bathroom and then back to the same room.
After about 15 minutes they took me into the room Adam was in. The man who had spoken to me earlier showed me photos of Adam. In one of them, he was holding a stone. The man said that according to the photos, my son throws stones. I asked him: “Who was he throwing stones at? I don’t see anyone in front of him in the photo. He must have been playing with his friends”.
He said: “Your son throws stones at police officers”. I said to him: “Where are the photos of the officers?” Then I also told him that the kids in al-’Esawiyah have nowhere to go. There are no parks, no playgrounds. Police come into the neighborhood often, and for the kids, clashing with them breaks the boredom and alienation they feel. In the end I asked him: “Who’s responsible for the clashes between the police and the kids”?
I was in the room for about half an hour. The interrogator had me sign a paper written in Hebrew and said it was my statement. Then they took my son to the Magistrates Court and we drove there in our car. In court, the lawyer asked to have Adam released. He was released at 3:00 P.M.