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From the field

B’Tselem Report: No Minor Matter - excerpts from the minors’ testimonies

To prepare the report, B'Tselem interviewed 50 Palestinian minors who had been arrested between November 2009 and February 2011 on suspicion of stone-throwing. The minors described the harsh treatment to which they had been subjected during their arrest, interrogation, court proceedings, and imprisonment. The military legislation in the Occupied Territories grants few age-related protections to minor defendants in criminal cases; even those granted them are not always properly implemented. The following excerpts, from testimonies given by four of the minors B'Tselem interviewed, illustrate the various breaches of their rights.

Shaker Hamamreh, from Husan, was 16 years old when he was arrested. He told B'Tselem of the moment when he realized that soldiers had come to arrest him, in the middle of the night:

I got out of bed, dressed very fast and went out of my room. I share the room with my brothers. I saw that they'd woken up. They looked scared. The soldiers were spread throughout in the house. They grabbed me and took me outside. They put a blindfold over my eyes, cuffed my hands and legs and put me in a jeep.

Shaker’s brother, ‘Omar, was 15 when he was arrested, about a week and a half after his brother. He, too, described the moment: I woke up because someone called my name. I got up, scared and frightened. I looked around and saw my mother. There were soldiers from the Israeli army with her. I realized that it was a soldier who had called my name. One of the soldiers told me I was under arrest. He said, “Get dressed quickly!”

Ahmad a-Salibi, from Beit Ummar, was arrested when he was 15 years old. He related how, after he and his friends were arrested in the village at around 3:00 P.M., they had to wait many hours before their interrogation began: I sat with the others who had been arrested. They made me sit on my knees for half an hour. Then they let us sit in a normal way, with our heads facing down. Our hands were tied behind our backs and our eyes were covered. We were outside, and it was cold. I tried to sleep but couldn't.

Fadi Khatib, from Bil’in, was 13 when he was arrested. He described waiting to be interrogated, after he had been arrested on his family’s land at about 6:00 P.M:

The soldiers put the cover back on my eyes and sat me on the ground. It was dark. I was scared, and it was cold. I started shivering. After about an hour, I asked for water, but the soldiers didn't bring me any. After another hour passed, I think it was around ten o’clock, they put me into a jeep and we drove away.

‘Omar Hamamrehcontends that he admitted to the charge because he had been pressured during the police interrogation: :

During my whole interrogation, the interrogator did not let me go to the bathroom, even though I really had to go. They didn't bring me food, or even water. I was really tired from the interrogation and from being beaten. So I preferred to tell the interrogator that I did throw stones in 2007. Then he ordered me to sign my confession. I signed a paper that was written in Hebrew. I didn't know what it said. At the time, I just wanted to put an end to the interrogation and the beatings, especially since it was the first time I’d been arrested.

Ahmad a-Salibirelated how he and his friends were made to wait for almost a whole day, in harsh conditions, after their interrogation at the police station had ended, before being taken to Ofer Prison:

The soldiers told me and my friend, M.A., who is 13, to stay in the yard at Etzion base. We waited there for about three hours. It rained every now and then. My friend started to cry and only then, they put us in a room. There were no chairs in it and we sat on the floor. A soldier was in the room, guarding us. When I tried to sleep, he would kick me and make noise to wake me up.

Fadi Khatibrelated how he had arrived at Ofer Prison in the middle of the night:  They covered my eyes and put me in a jeep and took me to a place I didn't know. When we got there, they took off the blindfold and put me in a room. They took my things and put me in a room with six young Palestinians. It was 4:30 in the morning. I knew what time it was because one of the guys who were arrested had a watch. The one with the watch asked me, “Do you know where you are?” I said, “No!”. He said, “You're in Ofer Prison,”

Shaker Hamamreh described his appearance in court:
We were in Ofer for a few more days, and then we went to the court there for the first time. The attorneys Firas Sabah and Fadi al-Qawasmeh, from the Palestinian Prisoner Society, were there. They represented my friend Fadi and me in court. After the hearing, they took us back to the tents in Ofer. While I was held at Ofer, before they took me to Rimmonim Prison, my parents didn't visit me, nor did a lawyer or a representative of any humanitarian organization.

Ahmad a-Salibi was detained from Saturday to Tuesday and then released on unpaid bond. No indictment was filed against him. Fadi Khatib was detained from Friday to Tuesday, released on bail, and no further action was taken against him. The brothers Shaker and ‘Omer Hamamreh were indicted. They entered into a plea bargain in which they pleaded guilty to stone-throwing and were given a three-month prison sentence each.