Unaccompanied Minors

10.11.13

Palestinian Parents To Be Allowed To Accompany Children Under Israeli Interrogation

This is what occupation looks like:

An Israeli judge at a Jerusalem Magistrate's court ruled Wednesday that the parents of young Palestinian detainees can attend police interrogation sessions with their children, the Palestinian Prisoners' Society said.

…Israeli police interrogate Palestinian children repeatedly without the presence of their parents and often force minors to confess to crimes using illegal methods, [Mufid al-Hajj, a lawyer with the Palestinian Prisoners Society], said.

The decision will be circulated to Israeli police stations in Jerusalem, the lawyer added.

Just in case it needs spelling out, what the foregoing means is that heretofore, Palestinian children have routinely not been allowed to have their parents with them when questioned by Israel’s security forces―and lest you think by “children,” I’m just talking about teenaged ruffians (who, it should be noted, also have a right to have their parents present when detained by police), I actually mean children as young as 12, 10, 8. Children as young as 5.

UNICEF reported last spring that

In the past 10 years, an estimated 7,000 children have been detained, interrogated, prosecuted and/or imprisoned within the Israeli military justice system – an average of two children each day.

…The common experience of many children is being aggressively awakened in the middle of the night by many armed soldiers and being forcibly brought to an interrogation center tied and blindfolded, sleep deprived and in a state of extreme fear. Few children are informed of their right to legal counsel…. Children are often prevented from saying goodbye to their parents and from putting on appropriate clothing for the journey.

The majority of children prosecuted in the military courts are charged with throwing stones…. Data based on the work of organizations providing legal support to children show that children charged with throwing stones and prosecuted in the military courts are receiving prison sentences in the range of 2 weeks to 10 months.

Occasionally the children of Israeli settlers throw rocks at Palestinians. Earlier this month, a Palestinian six year old from the village of Umm al Ara’is approached a young settler boy, his hand outstretched―the two shook hands, and as the Palestinian boy walked away, the Israeli child bent down, picked up a rock, and threw it.

So, should the settler boy have been arrested by the many armed Israeli security personnel present at the time? On the other hand, if uniformed Israelis had not been present but Palestinian security forces had, should the Palestinians have arrested the Israeli child? And if either had happened―how would the world respond?

Currently there are some 30 Palestinian minors under the age of 16 in Israeli prisons. What if they were Israelis, in Palestinian prisons?