Lettera a Fabio Scuto e al cdr di Repubblica a seguito dellarticolo "In carcere per poter studiare. La scelta dei giovani palestinesi" pubblicato ieri, sabato 15 aprile.
il suo articolo pubblicato ieri su Repubblica – Titolo: Sottotitolo: "Si fanno arrestare in massa per preparare gli esami". Sommari: "Si presentano ai check point armati di coltello per farsi bloccare dai poliziotti israeliani", "In cella hanno l’assistenza di insegnanti arabo-israeliani volontari. Il boom alla vigilia della maturità" – ci ha lasciati di stucco. La fonte era citata nelle prime righe: Shin Bet e autorità militari israeliane. Il tono analitico tra il "sociologico" e il "costume" tradiva una grave mancanza di informazioni sulla reale situazione in Palestina – Territori occupati e Striscia di Gaza – dove i minori in carcere vengono sottoposti a torture psico-fisiche e violenze sessuali, e mai si sognerebbero di farsi arrestare pensando di finire in una sorta di "Beauty farm" dove studiare in pace. Molte sono le denunce pubblicate da organizzazioni per la difesa dei diritti umani e dell’infanzia sull’atroce situazione carceraria in Israele e nei Territori.
Perché allora ignorare fior di documentazione al riguardo e beffare così chi già sta soffrendo per gli effetti di un’occupazione che viola tutte le risoluzioni Onu e le condanne dei tribunali internazionali? Ci sembra veramente troppo.
Dati e denunce sono rintracciabili in molti website – di cui alleghiamo qui qualche indirizzo – oltre che da fonti sul campo.
Repubblica è uno dei quotidiani più letti d’Italia e crea opinioni e tendenze. Veicolare informazioni palesemente attinte da propaganda militare israeliana non aiuta a far luce su un conflitto che dura da oltre sessant’anni e sull’attuale crisi umanitaria (la definizione proviene, tra l’altro, da europarlamentari) in cui versa la popolazione palestinese affamata e rinchiusa dentro piccoli banthustan dal Muro e dai check point israeliani.
Chiediamo pertanto sia possibile trovare spazio per spiegare quale sia la realtà minorile nelle carceri israeliane, che nulla ha a che fare con la "pace" e la "tranquillità" descritte dal suo articolo.
redazione di www.infopal.it
Per dati e notizie sullargomento, consultare:
Introduction: Each year, hundreds of Palestinian children from the Occupied Palestinian Territories are arrested, interrogated, and imprisoned by the Israeli military authorities. Since 1992, Defence for Children International/Palestine Section (DCI/PS) has represented many of these children in Israeli military courts, monitoring the conditions of their detention, and intervening with relevant institutions and government bodies in order to improve their situation.
What DCI/PS has witnessed repeatedly through their work with Palestinian child prisoners, and what has been confirmed by other human rights organizations working within the areas under Israeli occupation, are widespread and systematic violations of international law designed to safeguard the rights of children deprived of their liberty.
While international law states that child imprisonment should be used as a measure of last resort, the Israeli occupation forces view it as a matter of routine, arresting around 750 minors in 2002. Over the course of 2002, draconian laws were used with greater frequency against children, including Administrative Detention orders which allow for detention without published evidence and military order 1500, which means that children can be detained for up to 12 days (previously 18) without a court appearance or legal consultation. In 2003, these military orders continue to be invoked against children, with around 400 arrests to end-September. At the end of 2003, military order 1500 was altered so that children can be detained for up to eight days without a court appearance or legal consultation.
When children are arrested they are usually taken to adult military detention centres and interrogation centres. There are no specialist juvenile facilities, courts or personnel within the Israeli system apart from Telmond prison which houses around 70 of 350 child prisoners. Frequently, we hear of cases where children are forced to sign confessions, where they are beaten and handcuffed, or subjected to positional abuse, or shabeh (see factsheets for more). Meanwhile, children deprived of their liberty are often denied access to healthcare and education, adequate nutrition, hygiene and recreation time. Family visits are a rare privilege due to travel restrictions on the Palestinian population and frequent detention within Israeli military bases or settlements. Not surprisingly, psycho-social studies indicate that the impact of imprisonment and the horrific experiences suffered by child prisoners has a significant impact on their future development as individuals. However, the statistics suggest that the situation continues to deteriorate unrelentingly, with an increased number of arrests, an increase in cases against younger children (14 and under) and a marked trend towards longer sentencing. For instance, the longest sentences of over 3 years were not used at all in 2001, but in 2002, 17 children were sentenced to detention of between 5-10 years.
The information provided on this website is based on DCI/PS’s experience in working with Palestinian child prisoners. It is designed both to raise awareness of the issue as well as to mobilize people to engage in advocacy efforts to bring about Israel’s compliance with international law.
Don’t say you didn’t know about
PALESTINIAN CHILD PRISONERS.
Text prepared in May 2004 by Adah Kay
Prison is a central feature of Palestinian life affecting most families in the occupied territories. Since 1967, the Israeli military has detained more than 600,000 Palestinians, mainly men. In April 2004 8,200 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons.
However most people will not know that these statistics include children, or that increasing numbers of Palestinian children have been arrested and detained in Israeli prisons well over 2,500 – since the start of the current Intifada. The April 2004 figures include 377 children between 12-18, in addition to 209 who turned 18 whilst in detention.
State backed institutionalized discrimination and violations of children’s rights
Prison also plays a central role within the Israeli occupation, a system of control that permeates every aspect of Palestinian life. Although the Israeli army is critical to enforcement, a range of legal, political and economic structures support this system of control. Literally thousands of Israeli military orders issued since 1967 provide the legal framework for the occupation; a number allow for the arrest and detention of Palestinian children, many without out charge or trial.
Although the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as Israeli law defines ‘a child’ as someone under 18, the military order system treats children of 16 and over as adults. The lack of protections afforded to Palestinian child prisoners contrasts sharply with the generous rights and treatment available to arrested Israeli children.
The military courts that try Palestinian children are presided over by military personnel not all of whom have legal qualifications. Child detainees have no guaranteed right to legal representation and it is extremely difficult for any lawyer to represent Palestinians before these courts. Palestinian lawyers routinely encounter discrimination and many obstacles in trying to defend their clients. Since the current Intifada began those living in the occupied territories cannot visit their clients or monitor conditions in prisons in Israel.
Although the vast majority of arrested Palestinian children are charged with throwing stones, it is extremely rare for them to receive anything but a custodial sentence. Indeed variations in sentencing patterns appear to be based on prevailing political conditions rather than on objective legal standards. In 1999, 43% of children were sentenced to less than a month in prison and none to three or more years. In 2002, only 10% got less than a month in prison and 11% were sentences to three or more years. Although 2003 saw some decline in harsher sentencing -approximately 26% of children got sentences of less than a month and 38% between one to six months- 8.8% were still sentenced to three years or more.
A Policy of Abuse and Torture
Sworn testimonies of 100s of detained children highlight a pattern of abuse from the moment of their arrest until their release.
Children are arrested from their homes–often in the middle of the night, on the street, during demonstrations or as part of mass arrests. Wherever this takes place, testimonies confirm a similar pattern of violent and intimidating arrests by Israeli soldiers and police.
Following their arrest, these children are held and interrogated in one of 8 detention centers in Israeli settlements or military camps spread throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. There they are isolated from anything or anyone familiar and denied contact with their families, and frequently access to an attorney. Under interrogation, they are routinely coerced and intimidated to obtain information about other children, or activists in their community or to recruit them as collaborators. Sworn testimonies give numerous instances of torture including severe beating, exposure to extreme temperatures, forced signing of confessions, isolation, shaking, threats, handcuffing and blindfolding, sleep deprivation or positional abuse.
Human Rights Violations in Detention Conditions
Once interrogated, children are moved to prison in one of four facilities in Israel or one in the West Bank. Boys over 16 are detained with adults in two tented prisons; those under 15 are imprisoned in two facilities, either with male Israeli juvenile prisoners or with adult Israeli prisoners. Until late 2003, Palestinian girls were detained in an Israeli women’s prison with adults and Israeli females held for criminal offences.
Conditions in both the prisons and the detention centers violate a range of international human rights standards. The children are isolated from any non-imprisoned adult Palestinians because since September 2000 it has been virtually impossible for children’s families or lawyers to visit prisons in Israel. Accommodation is overcrowded and unhygienic. There is often not enough bedding or even space for the basic mattresses. Food is very poor and often insufficient. Washing and use of toilets is restricted and children lack access to medical provision and formal education.
But Palestinian prisoners cannot be viewed just as victims. Prison is often a key site of resistance with prisoners playing a key role both inside and outside prison. Forms of resistance have varied at different stages and are largely determined by the strength of political organization outside prisons. Although this was stronger during the first Intifada, during the current Intifada children and in particular women political prisoners have acted collectively and protested prison conditions.
How can Israel continue these human rights abuses?
This evidence points to a conscious policy by the Israeli state of institutionalized violence against child prisoners. This policy is implemented by many branches of the Israeli state and plays a key role within the overall occupation system of control. A range of structures support this policy ranging from a discriminatory legal system to physical and psychological strategies aimed at intimidation and suppressing resistance, not only punishment.
Such practices contrast sharply with a raft of standards developed by the international community relating to detained children. These standards, codified in binding treaties (many of which Israel is party to) and in UN guidelines, stress the need for rehabilitation, consideration of the best interests of the child and the use of arrest and imprisonment of children only as a measure of last resort.
A number of factors explain how Israel has been able to continue to violate these standards, apart from the fact that its domestic legal system is heavily weighted against human rights advocates, who have had little success in achieving justice by this means.
Part of the explanation lies in weaknesses in the international human rights framework, which have frustrated attempts to seek justice through the UN human rights system. Israel is
keen to present itself as a western, liberal democracy and seeks both to avoid explicitly denying the importance of human rights principles or admitting to failures in compliance. Instead it manipulates the human rights system using a range of obfuscating and technical legal arguments.
But the international human rights system itself contains some major structural faults that allow Israel to continue this manipulation. First, UN human rights bodies are mandated to monitor rather than enforce human rights treaties. Enforcement requires member states to take a conscious decision and that needs political will. Second, this framework appeals to principles of neutrality and ‘objective’ international standards. This ‘objectivity’ in turn influences the choice of processes – cataloguing and documentation -used to highlight human rights abuses. Whilst documentation is important in exposing abuses, it does little to reveal the underlying causes or political forces giving rise to them. Documentation alone often results in a checklist of violations that compares the record of the oppressor with that of the oppressed and implies some kind of power equality.
Finally these violations have continued unchecked because successive Israeli governments have employed the powerful ‘security’ discourse to justify a wide array of human rights abuses. By a sleight of hand all Palestinian including children, who oppose or resist the occupation, become a security threat, increasingly portrayed as potential terrorists.
What can be done?
Enforcing international humanitarian and human rights law requires political will. But as governments around the world continue to fail to act, it is increasingly up to the international public to generate the political will for such enforcement.
Activists need to go beyond exchanging information with like minded people and build strategic alliances that challenge government support for regimes that ignore these international standards
The human rights field needs to move beyond the confines of legal debate to acknowledge and address the strategic political and power interests that enable human rights abuses.
Stolen Youth: The Politics of Israel’s Detention of Palestinian Children, by Catherine Cook, Adam Hanieh, and Adah Kay. Published by Pluto Books in association with Defence for Children International/Palestine Section, London 2004.