Is it acceptable to blindfold and arrest an eleven year old?

by Elina and Heidi, Jayyus team

An older guy gives Ahmed support before he turned himself into the Israeli soldiers. Photo EAPPI/E. Mäkilä.

An older guy gives Ahmed support before he turned himself into the Israeli soldiers. Photo EAPPI/E. Mäkilä.

Omar and Ahmed’s story

On 16 November the Israeli military went to arrest fourteen year old Ahmed. According to the military he and his friend Omar, eleven years old, had thrown stones at Israeli cars passing by. Because Ahmed was nowhere to be found, the soldiers decided to arrest his father. Two members of the Jayyus EAPPI team were present at the site to witness this arrest. As one of the soldiers went into the back of one of the armored vehicles, for a brief moment one member of the EA team was able to see Omar. He sat in the car with his hands tied and blindfolded. Omar is only eleven. He was alone. He was not accompanied by a parent. One of the EAs confronted the soldiers and pointed out that this is illegal, even according to Israeli law! The soldier looked the EA dead in the eye and denied that there was a child in the car and then drove away.

Ahmed’s family was told that the father of the family would not be released until they handed over Ahmed. With tears in her eyes Ahmed’s mother turned to his sister and argued that the military would anyway come at night to arrest Ahmed if they did not hand him over today. The sister wept. Ahmed himself, who returned home after the military had left, also looked really nervous when hearing he would have to face Israeli imprisonment.

Fortunately, both the boys and Ahmed’s were released from detention about an hour after Ahmed turned himself in. When the Jayyus EA team spoke with Omar, he explained that the  Israeli soldiers had neither hit him nor threatened him. When an EA team member asked him if he was afraid during the detention he became quiet and then denied being afraid. Then the adults in the room said that it is ok to be afraid.

Sadly, this is not a unique story

Under the current Israeli occupation Omar’s and Ahmed’s story is by no means a unique one. As EAPPI observers we have witnessed several similar cases that have led to the detention and imprisonment of a child for several months. Under the occupation Palestinian people, including children, are tried according to military law. Children over 16 years of age are considered adults before Israeli military law -responsibility before law starts at the age of 12. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a “child” to be “every human being below the age of eighteen years”. Palestinian children arrested by the Israeli forces continue to be interrogated without the presence of a lawyer or parent, and without a video recording of the sessions.

The hardest thing to witness is the psychological damage and violence the occupation causes to Palestinian children and their families. Not only is this a violation of human rights and international law, but most importantly it is a disgrace towards human dignity. As EAs we have seen the sorrow of the families who cannot provide security for their children.  What kind of consequences does this have on the peace process?  What will the future look like, when it is built in this manner using tools of oppression, fear and humiliation? By hiding behind the law one can justify actions taken and continue breaking young minds, causing suffering for the Palestinian people, not just as individuals but for the community as a whole.

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Facts about Israeli military court and child arrests in the occupied Palestinian territory
(source Addameer.org)

  • 159 children were kept in Israeli prisons and detention centers on November 1, 2013. Fifteen of them are under the age of sixteen.
  • Israeli administration detention orders empowers military commanders to detain an individual without a charge for up to six month long renewable periods if they have “reasonable grounds to presume that the security of the area or public security requires the detention.” On or just before the expiry date, the detention order is frequently renewed. This process can then be continued indefinitely.
  • The current Israeli order of Criminal Code divides Palestinian children into three different categories – those under 12 are considered children, those between 12 and 14 are considered “youth” and those between 14 and 16 are defined as “young adults”. Palestinian children over 16 years old are considered adults before the military law while Israeli children age 18 and older are tried under Israeli civilian law.
  • Palestinian children continue to be charged according to their age at the time of sentencing, instead of their age at the time of the alleged offense, as required by international law. This practice enables them to be sentenced as an adult for an offense they may have committed as a child if they are unfortunate enough to be charged years after the alleged offense, or simply if they turn 16 while awaiting sentencing.

November Resources of the Month

resources of the month nov 2013It’s the end of the month, so here are a few resources for you to keep up to date and use in your advocacy.

  1. Christmas is coming up in less than a month and advent begins next week!  Use Kairos Palestine’s advent resources and remember Palestinians as you prepare for Christmas. It’s even available in 9 languages.
  2. Have you seen Just Vision’s new Interviews with Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leaders working to end the occupation and the conflict using non-violent means? Also, check out their Visual Quotes, which are easy to share online! Haven’t heard of Just Vision? Please check them out.  They have a wealth of advocacy resources.
  3. Our mid-term orientation is coming up soon and our EAs will soon meet with New Profile, a movement for the demilitarization of Israeli society.  Their slide show offers a unique picture into one aspect of Israeli society.
  4. Don’t forget our fact sheets and briefings. New and updated ones can always be found HERE. Be sure to check out our latest fact sheet: Report: Azzun Atma partial checkpoint re-activated.

Have you seen any great advocacy resources lately? Comment below and we may include them next month.

Children: what’s the toll of occupation?

Photo EAPPI/M. Schaffluetzel

Photo EAPPI/M. Schaffluetzel

by Jake, Jayyus team

Although children do not choose to participate in conflicts, from an early age they are often caught in the crossfires of hostility, violence, or war. Their loss of innocence and a carefree childhood is an especially tragic part of conflict.

Last Sunday, I was traveling to Nablus with another member of the Jayyus EAPPI team. As we approached the road where we expected to catch a taxi, we noticed the Israeli army detaining two young Palestinian boys across the road from us. The boys leaned against the guardrail with their backpacks at their feet as a soldier kept guard over them. The difference in size between them and the soldier was a striking illustration of the imbalance of power between the boys and the soldiers.

When one of the fathers asked questions of the soldier, he answered very few questions. Eventually, the soldiers led the boys to the back of an army jeep and drove off with them. When the rest of the families arrived shortly afterwards, they wondered where their children were being taken and what would happen to them.

Palestinians who witnessed the scene told us that the boys were picking leftover olives – as many boys do at this time of year for some extra pocket change – in an olive grove that runs alongside the road when they were detained. The Israeli army claimed that the boys were detained because they were in fact throwing stones at Israelis on the road.

That evening, I couldn’t forget what I had seen that afternoon. I don’t know whether they had thrown stones or not, but the reality was that these boys were now in the hands of people whose treatment of Palestinian youth is often dubious. I wondered helplessly what they were going through at that moment and how scared they were.

A few days later, another member of the Jayyus team and I visited the two boys who were detained. Thankfully, they were released the same night. As we sat in their living rooms and drank coffee with their families, they recounted their experiences to us.

They told us about how they were handcuffed and brought to a police station in a settlement. About how they were left to sit out in the cold for two hours. About how they witnessed an Israeli soldier beat another boy being beaten. About how the soldiers knew they did not throw the stones, but kept them for eight hours anyway.

The events of the detention traumatized one of the boys especially. We could tell he was still frightened and in shock. For that reason, his mother did not sent him to school that week.

As I sat there, I could not think of any appropriate questions to ask him or his family. What I really wanted to know could not be answered in that moment. What I wanted to know about this boy and about the Palestinian youth was the toll of occupation. Do these kinds of traumatic events leave imprints that lasts a lifetime? Does living in constant fear of unjustified arrests, detainments, and having the army knock down your door in the middle of the night ever become normal? How can children and their families possibly cope with this fear?

Maybe I cannot answer these questions fully, but they in themselves point to the effects of the Israeli occupation; it is ruthless and relentless and children are suffering because of it. Of that, I’m convinced.