A severe report from Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, released Sunday evening, highlights a range of shortcomings in Jerusalem police regarding the detention of minors. According to the human rights organization, the police opened 1,267 files last year against Palestinian minors from east Jerusalem on suspicion of stone throwing, and ignored laws and regulations governing the questioning of minors in some cases.
According to the report, some of the minors were arrested at night and even taken from their beds, and taken to the Russian Compound, even though according to the law all efforts must be made to avoid detaining minors during the night. In many cases minors were questioned without their parents being present, which is also against the law. Some of the young detainees even say violence was directed against them, and they were cuffed for no reason.
"The police behavior against Palestinian minors from Silwan amounts to serious contempt for special protections granted them as minors," states the report, which is based on interviews with 30 detainees. "B'Tselem calls on Jerusalem police to uphold the law in letter and spirit when dealing with cases of stone throwing in east Jerusalem."
Yazan (14) relates what happened to him during interrogation. "At a certain stage, the interrogator noticed the handcuffs round my wrists were not tight and he tightened them hard," he said. "During the questioning, the interrogator didn't let me go to the bathroom or drink anything. In the end I couldn't take the slaps and the pressure and admitted to throwing stones at Beit Yonatan."
The report mentioned that in at least four instances police detained children under the age of 12 – the age of criminal responsibility. "In one case an eight-year-old boy was taken from his bed in the middle of the night only because he had the same name as another boy who was suspected of throwing stones," said the report.
'Door open to file complaints'
Nasr, 13, was detained near a mosque in Silwan in October. "A masked man dressed in black grabbed me by the neck and hit my chest," he recounts. "Then he put me on the ground and hit my face. I had a bloody lip.
"Later, a 'Mistaarev' (Israeli soldier disguised as an Arab) put me in a white Toyota. There was another boy named Hassan inside (the car). The 'Mistaarev' threw me on top of him and we were both on the car's floor. Together with us in the back were two hooded men. Two officers sat in the front. The masked men beat us inside the car, and we both began to cry. I was so scared I wet my pants," Nasr says.
According to the B'Tselem report, the minors' complaints of violence were either ignored or treated with contempt, and in the few cases in which an investigation was launched, it was closed without any legal action against those responsible.
Jerusalem Police said in response, "In our activity against minors who violate the law, we act in accordance with the law, and in cases where people complained that their rights had been violated or that police violated the law, we opened the door for them to file their complaints with the appropriate authorities.
"Most of the parents are present during their children's interrogation, but in some cases parents choose not to be present," according to Jerusalem Police.
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