RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Teenage Palestinians in Israeli prisons and detention centers say they have been tortured, verbally abused, kicked, and slapped by Israeli interrogators during detention and interrogation, according to a lawyer from the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, who recently conducted a series of visits with Palestinian teens in Israeli custody.
Hiba Masalha’s collection of testimonies comes as the latest report amid years of well documented cases of abuse and mistreatment of Palestinian children by Israeli forces.
Some 31 other Palestinians, the majority of them minors, were detained the same night during mass raids in Issawiya, in a detention campaign that has continued to intensify in East Jerusalem neighborhoods as Israeli police crack down on Palestinian youth for alleged criminal offenses like rock throwing.
“After Israeli soldiers handcuffed and took me outside my home,” Atiyeh said, “they violently beat me with their hands, with clubs, with their rifles, and kicked me in the head, back, and abdomen.”
Atiyeh said he was then shoved inside a military jeep between two soldiers with his head down and “whenever I moved they slapped me in the face.”
He was then taken to Israel’s Russian Compound detention center where, according to Masalha, he was forced to “kneel with his face on the ground and his hands cuffed behind his back for 10 hours.”
Another teenage boy, Muhammad Arafat Ubeidat, 16, from the Jabal al-Mukabbir neighborhood of East Jerusalem, told Masalha that he was detained from his home on May, 19 at 3 p.m., after Israeli police and soldiers ransacked his house “messing up whatever they found on the ground.”
A commander then asked Ubeidat to sign a paper in Hebrew and Arabic certifying that “nobody had beaten him or assaulted him.”
After he signed the paper, the soldiers handcuffed him behind his back and took him to a military vehicle.
The teen was then sat between two soldiers with his head facing the ground for the duration of the ride, throughout which “the soldiers beat his back with their elbows and slapped his face repeatedly.”
Like Atiyeh, Ubeida was then taken to the Russian Compound detention center where he was interrogated for six hours until midnight, his hands and feet tied to a chair.
“An interrogator kept swearing at me and slapping my face the whole time telling me to admit to charges (I didn’t commit).”
Ubeida stayed 14 days in a cell at the compound, under no charge, during which he was subjected to 17 interrogation sessions.
Some days, he said, he had three or four interrogation sessions in one day. After the 14 days, he was then moved to Israel’s Megiddo prison.
Ubeidat pointed out that prisoners suffer severely when they have court hearings, as they have to travel from Megiddo prison in the north, to central Israel’s Ramla prison, then to Jerusalem, and back.
“The wardens who escorted us treated us very badly, beating us and swearing at us for no reason,” Ubeida said, “they denied us water and bathroom breaks during the long journey back and forth.”
Masalha reported similar experiences from Muhammad Hussein Halasi, 17, from Jabal al-Mukabbir, Omar Abu al-Foul, 17, from Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, Jihad Salih Ghaban, 17, from Beit Lahiya in the Gaza Strip, and residents of Shufat refugee camp in occupied East Jerusalem Yazan Nidal Issa and Nidal Majid Adwein.
The youth from the Gaza Strip were detained in April and May after they attempted to cross the border fence between Israel and the besieged coastal enclave without proper documentation, in attempt to go to Israel and look for work.
Masalha’s report came two days after the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) released a statement saying Palestinians being held in Israel’s Etzion prison were subjected to assaults, while Israeli soldiers reportedly used electric shock on a 16-year-old prisoner. Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) released a report last month describing the well documented abuse of Palestinians children by Israeli forces and the harsh interrogation practices used to force their confessions, which has long been the target of criticism by the international community.According to affidavits taken by DCIP for the report documenting the recent arrests and sentencing of Palestinian minors for rock throwing, two of the teenagers “both had maintained their innocence and confessed only after they had experienced physical and psychological abuse.”The youth described being kicked and punched while handcuffed, choked, and having a door slammed in their face.
Interrogations of Palestinian children can last up to 90 days according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, during which in addition to being beaten and threatened, cases of sexual assault, and placement in solitary confinement to elicit confessions are also often reported, while confession documents they are forced to sign are in Hebrew — a language most Palestinian children do not speak.