On the evening of February 28 Soldiers arrested 8 Palestinians — six of them appeared to be under 16, and two were clearly younger than 12. Soldiers arrested the boys on Shalala street and walked them into the military base at Bab el Baledeyya at the entrance to the Old City. After about an hour the soldiers took all of them out the other side of the base in military jeeps.
The arrests bring the total of child arrests and detentions documented by Internationals working in Hebron during the month of February to 18. This number by no means reflects the total number of arrests and detentions of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces in the city.
Some of the detentions witnessed have been relatively brief, including incidents where soldiers took children from residential streets or the market, walked them some distance, compared them to photographs or interrogated them in the street, then released them. Sometimes children are taken into military bases or to military police stations and question them there. Some of the children were arrested from their homes by soldiers, and some were held overnight.
Palestinian children in Hebron are routine victims of racial profiling by Israeli soldiers who are looking for children who may have thrown stones on another day. Often the children who are detained or arrested are innocent, but once in custody feel pressured to identify other children or adults from photos. Palestinian children arrested by Israeli military authorities have no access to their parents or to legal representation. They are often transported in military vehicles, sometimes with adult detainees, to military bases and police stations.
According to UNICEF, (Children in Israeli Military Detention; Observations and Recommendations, February 2013) approximately 700 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17 are arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli army, police and security agents each year in the OPT. In the past 10 years approximately 7000 children have been detained, interrogated,prosecuted and/or imprisoned within the Israeli military justice system. This is an average of two children each day.
Many aspects of the child detentions and arrests documented in Hebron during the month of February are clear violations of international law, which clearly states the following:
- Parents or legal guardians should be informed of the arrest of children within the shortest possible time thereafter, in a language understood by the child and the parents or legal guardians. (The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), article 9 (1) and (2); Beijing Rules, Rule 10.1).
- All children should be free from compulsory self-incrimination, which includes the right to silence. ‘Compulsory’ should be interpreted broadly and not limited to physical force. The age of the child and the length of the interrogation, the child’s lack of understanding and the fear of unknown consequences may all lead a child to give a confession that is not true. (Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) article 40(2)(b) (iv); CRC General Comment No. 10, paragraphs 56-58; Convention against Torture, article 15; ICCPR, article 14(3)(g) and (4); Geneva IV, article 31).
- There must be independent scrutiny of the methods of interrogation of children. This should include the presence of a lawyer and relative or legal guardian and audio-visual recording of all interrogations involving children (CRC, art 40(2)(b0(ii) and (iv); CRC General Comment no. 10, para 58; ICCPT, art. 14(3)(b); HRC General Comment no. 20, para 11; HRC Concluding Observations, Israel (29 July 2010), ICCPR/C/ISR/CO/3, para 22; Convention against Torture, art. 2; UN Committee against Torture, General Comment No. 2, para 14, and Concluding Observations, Israel (14 May 2009), CAT/C/ISR/CO/4, paras 15, 16, 27 and 28).
- Children should not be held with an adult population while in custody. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, parties should establish separate facilities for children deprived of their liberty, including distinct, child-centered staff, personnel, policies and practices.