Childhood is not a Privilege but a Right!

14.01.2014

14 January 2014
8 January footnoted
31 December 2013

Childhood is not a Privilege but a Right!
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) Notes with increasing alarm and condemnation Israel's failure to protect Palestinian children from direct and indirect torture and ill treatment
Torture Destroys Childhood, Families, Society
With the Israeli Knesset's Public Petitions Committee (being held today) meeting on "Conditions of arrest and imprisonment of Palestinian youth in East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria (sic)"  (1) PCATI reminds Knesset Members and their constituents that torture and ill treatment are absolutely prohibited and that Israel's legislature must anchor this prohibition in its domestic law.
[PCATI was approached by a media monitoring organization that had concerns about press stories that came out following this statement. We were asked to respond and did so in the 3rd footnote below.]


The Istanbul Protocol Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture Raises the following issues regarding torture and children which must be understood:
"Perpetrators [of torture] often attempt to justify their acts of torture and ill-treatment by the need to gather information…One of the central aims of torture is to reduce an individual to a position of extreme helplessness and distress … Thus, torture is a means of attacking an individual’s fundamental modes of psychological and social functioning. The torturer attempts to destroy a victim’s sense of being grounded in a family and society as a human being with dreams, hopes and aspirations for the future. In addition, torture can profoundly damage intimate relationships between spouses, parents, children, other family members and relationships between the victims and their communities (Para. 235)… Torture can impact a child directly or indirectly. The impact can be due to the child’s having been tortured or detained, the torture of parents or close family members or witnessing torture and violence. When individuals in a child’s environment are tortured, the torture will inevitably have an impact on the child, albeit indirect, because torture affects the entire family and community of torture victims… Adolescence is a turbulent developmental period. The effects of torture can vary widely. Torture experiences may cause profound personality changes in adolescents resulting in antisocial behaviour. Alternatively, the effects of torture on adolescents may be similar to those seen in younger children (Para. 310 &312)."


PCATI has received in its offices dozens of complaints of torture and ill treatment from children in the last 10 years. Currently PCATI is actively working on cases concerning children's complaints of torture and ill treatment at the hands of Israeli soldiers and interrogators. (2)  PCATI is gravely concerned by reports from  NGOs such as Psychoactive, Military Court Watch, Breaking the Silence,  DCI Palestine, the Israeli Public Defenders office, B'Tselem and other organizations in civil society, of torture and ill treatment of children which included caging prisoners in iron cages (3) (including children) , abusive interrogations, detentions and arrests.
PCATI emphasizes that failure to allow the arrested child or minor to full enjoyment of his or her rights, including the failure to allow for an attorney or accompanying adult at the time of arrest and interrogation places the child in a state of helplessness, distress and increases the pressure being applied to the child by the security forces in order to achieve a confession or information during the interrogation.


PCATI applauds the recently announced efforts of (Defense of Children International) DCI-Palestine and Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR) to initiate a "know your rights campaign".  PCATI similarly points out that the threshold in which an act of abuse would be considered torture in the situation of an adult must be lowered when it comes to children.  PCATI further emphasizes that children and adults have the right to rehabilitation and to have their complaints fully examined including by forensic experts as well as the right to be accompanied by a representative of their choosing when giving testimony to an Israeli investigator. PCATI continues to work to insure respect for these principles.
DCI-Palestine and LPHR Write:


"Israel is the only nation to automatically and systematically prosecute children in military courts that lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees. Around 500-700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12 years old, are arrested, detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military detention system each year. The majority of Palestinian child detainees are charged with throwing stones, and 74 percent experience physical violence during arrest, transfer or interrogation, according to evidence collected by Defence for Children International Palestine. No Israeli children come into contact with the military court system."
PCATI reiterates that the right to be free from torture and ill treatment is absolute and calls on the Public Petitions Committee to demand that the right to be free from torture be anchored in Israeli domestic law and that it include specific provisions for the protection of all children who come into contact with any arm of Israel's security forces.

Notes:

1. This is a link to the statement (Hebrew) put out by the Knesset Committee: http://main.knesset.gov.il/Activity/Committees/Petitions/News/Pages/press311213.aspx  PCATI further points out the following link to the work of B'Tselem http://www.btselem.org/press_releases/20130822_etzion
2. This includes threats and acts of sexual violence.


3. [PCATI was approached by a media monitoring organization that had concerns about press stories that came out following this statement. We were asked to respond and did so as follows.] "Following your inquiry into media stories which followed The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel's statement http://www.stoptorture.org.il/en/node/1951  regarding the treatment of Palestinian children under arrest and or interrogation by Israeli security authorities we PCATI's Executive Director asked to make the following points: 1. PCATI stands behind the title "The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) Notes with increasing alarm and condemnation Israel's failure to protect Palestinian children from direct and indirect torture and ill treatment" and the content of the public statement.  We emphasize that the situation of Palestinian children in Israeli security custody has and continues to present serious problems concerning Israel's obligations under International human rights law including the Convention Against Torture. 2. Regarding the specific issue and link in the statement regarding the word "caging," PCATI notes, in further examination, that the Public Defender's statement to which we linked regarding this deplorable practice, which has since been ceased, did not mention the word Palestinian. PCATI had been told that this practice did include Palestinian detainees including minors (which is why we included the subject in the statement).  We value that this inconsistency was pointed out, however we also believe that in pointing out inconsistencies of this nature it is important to always dig deeper for the truth.  PCATI notes as well, that we raised th issue of the treatment of mionors/children as a concern to the Knesset Committee on Public Complaints, and we remain concerned. The issue of torture and ill treatment in Israel is well documented as well as the ongoing failure of the State to address complaints as we point out in many of our publications (http://www.stoptorture.org.il/en/reports). We further point out that although that Public Defender's report did not mention Palestinians specifically we thought it important to further understand both what happened and to seek further clarifications. We understand that the linked statement to the Public Defender's report reflected an event in particular as contrasted to the longer term use of this practice.  PCATI has learned from that the IPS, when asked about the circumstances surrounding the report that it did not distinguish between nationality and age and that there were people in custody who are also from the OPT. Therefore, there is no way out of saying that Palestinians too have suffered under this practice.   That is, Palestinians, albeit not security detainees, were subjected to being held under these conditions and there were Palestinian minors as well. The right to humane detention conditions is universal and PCATI does not distinguish between nationalities nor the reasons for detention.  Further, of course we do understand that those being held were held short term, a matter of hours.  We also understand that the practice was stopped and that these holding facilities were switched to other kinds of facilities.  This should, of course be fully checked.  We further emphasize that this practice was brought to the attention of senior officials by a group (the PD) which deals with the human rights of detainees.  It is unfortunate that the authorities thought it proper to hold detainees in these conditions to begin with. 

Empirically speaking those who most suffer under Israeli violations of the absolute prohibition against torture and ill treatment are Palestinians from the OPT.    PCATI continues to work to change Israeli policy and suggests that if one is concerned with or about Israel's image they be concerned with the human rights of children and adults without regard to their ethnic or national status. PCATI further points out that its statements, regardless of the language of the text are directed at duty bearers, those concerned with human rights and human rights enforcement.  Israeli officials who are concerned with legislation and policy are proficient in English as well as Hebrew.