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From the field

Violence Against Minors in Police Detention

June-July 1990, Summary

This report deals with minors from East Jerusalem who were being held in two police jails in Jerusalem, the Russian Compound, and the Kishle Police Station in the Old City. B'Tselem gathered extensive information on the behavior toward youngsters detained in the jail in the Russian Compound, and on violence and humiliation of the children on the part of police and General Security Service (Shin Bet).

This report exposes serious flaws in every aspect of the manner in which the Israeli Police handled the detention and interrogation of Palestinian minors suspected of security offenses. Conditions in the Russian Compound detention center did not meet even the most minimal requirements of humane imprisonment. The problem of overcrowding in the detention center was particularly bad. Minors who had already been tried remained in the detention center because of overcrowding elsewhere in the prsion services. This exacerbated the already strained conditions in the Russian Compound.

In spite of this situation, the police often asked the court to extend periods of detention, including those of minors, although in many cases the detainees were not interrogated even after the extentions had been granted. Herein lay another flaw in the system: detention of suspects before trial constituted a punishment in and of itself.

According to all the evidence at our disposal, it appears that the use of violence was not restricted to interrogations; violent treatment had become the norm during the period of detention.

Although senior police officials rejected the use of violent means of interrogation, such methods were widely employed.

The confessions taken from detainees were written in Hebrew, although the interrogation itself was conducted in Arabic. The police department claimed that the interrogators were able to speak Arabic, but were not proficient in the written language. Arabic is an official language in Israel, and there is no justification for making detainees sign confessions which they are unable to read. At the writing of this report, we were informed that the police were taking pains to find an appropriate solution to this problem.

In preparing this report we relied on testimonies gathered by members of the Organization for Aid to Imprisoned Minors, and on depositions gathered by our own lawyers. We also met with senior officials from the Israeli National Police to present the essential complaints garnered from these testimonies and hear the police's reactions.

The report includes the response of Superintendent Elinoar Mazuz, Public Complains Officer in the Police Inspector-General's Office, to the report.