The tragedy of child arrest: a story from Ofer Prison « Wadi Hilweh Information Center – Silwan, Jerusalem

Wednesday, 22 December, 2010 | 17:54

Silwan, Jerusalem (SILWANIC) — One of the most serious cases of human rights violations enacted by Israeli forces in is surely that which are carried out against children. Palestinian children throughout Jerusalem and the West Bank live under threat of targeting and arrest by Israeli forces, who rarely distinguish between the minors and adults they apprehend. Here Silwanic seeks to illustrate the tragedy of Palestinian childhood through a story as told by Ghada Aruri, a human rights activist speaking about the trial of a boy from Abu Dis village. Israel began construction of the Apartheid Wall through Abu Dis, a district of Jerusalem, in 2010. When completed it will sever Abu Dis from Jerusalem entirely.

“On 25 October this year I attended military court at Ofer Military Camp, which lies 10km north-west of Jerusalem, for the second time as part of my work as an advocacy officer with War Child International, a Dutch NGO. Gaining access to the court as an independent observer is a notoriously difficult task, as my application for a permit had already been twice denied. The third time, however, I was granted permission and thus was able to attend the trial of a 13 year old boy named Khalid*. Khalid was accused to throwing six Molotov cocktails at Israeli army jeeps in his village, with the exact dates of the supposed offences read aloud in the court. The accusations dated back to December 2009, when Khalid “confessed” to the crime in exchange for a quick release. This kind of “deal”, struck between the prisoner and “military prosecutor”, is a common tactic employed by Israeli interrogators to extract confessions from their subjects.

“There was an elephant in the room at Khalid’s trial that nobody seemed game to point out however – that, of course, being his very young age. Military courts are by definition reserved for militants, not children. What we see happening in the Israeli justice system however, is the lines becoming increasingly blurred between child and adult, with many youth tried as dangerous offenders. Such treatment carries sentencing and repercussions beyond their years.

“Khalid was already crying as he entered the courtroom – I say courtroom, but in fact it’s nothing more than a caravan or mobile unit, as part of Ofer Camp. As he saw his mother sitting in the court he began to cry again, worsened only by the fact that despite their proximity they could not shake hands or even touch. Khalid called out to his mother, telling her that he had been forced to stand in the cold that night since 2am as he was transferred from his cell to await trial. He had been beaten by soldiers and suffered from pain in his legs as a result. The trial ended abruptly with Khalid being sentenced to 70 days in prison, of which he had already served 60. While his release was expected within a week, his parents had to pay an additional fine of $US2000 to secure his release.

“Khalid has since been released, and was subsequently admitted to hospital where he received medical care for the injuries he suffered as a result of brutality during incarceration. The emotional scars are sure to last far longer, however.”

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The tragedy of child arrest: a story from Ofer Prison « Wadi Hilweh Information Center – Silwan, Jerusalem.

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