Israeli army continue to flout regulations on child detainees

Palestinian child looks at Israeli jeep during scuffles in the West Bank city of Hebron on August 2, 2010 after Israeli authorities destroyed the irrigation system in the Jaber family’s land

By Gerald Horton, Middle East Monitor

Palestinian child looks at Israeli jeep during scuffles in the West Bank city of Hebron on August 2, 2010 after Israeli authorities destroyed the irrigation system in the Jaber family’s land

By Gerald Horton, Middle East Monitor

Following numerous complaints and legal action concerning pain and injury caused by the use of single plastic hand ties by the Israeli military on detainees, including children, the office of the Military Advocate General announced the introduction of new procedures for the use of restraints in 2010. The nature of the complaints prior to the introduction of the new procedures relating to the use of plastic ties included swelling, ties cutting into wrists and severe pain.

Under the new procedures introduced in 2010, hands should be tied from the front, unless security considerations require tying from behind. Three plastic ties should be used; one around each wrist and one connecting the two; there should be the space of a finger between the ties and the wrist; and the restraints should avoid causing suffering as much as possible. The officer in charge is responsible for ensuring compliance.

According to international juvenile justice standards restraints should only be used if the child poses an imminent threat to him or herself, or to others and all other means have been exhausted. Restraints may be used as a precaution against escape during transfer but only for as long as is strictly necessary and must not cause unnecessary pain or suffering. According toUNICEF and a UK report, single plastic hand ties should be prohibited in all circumstances, as should blindfolds.

Approximately three years after the introduction of the new procedures, UNICEF reported that “the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process”. In reaching this conclusion UNICEF found that children continued to be painfully hand tied and blindfolded on a routine basis contrary to international standards and Israeli military regulations.

In May 2013, the military authorities responded to UNICEF’s findings by issuing a letter to the heads of all Brigades, Divisions, Police and Military Police operating in the West Bank reminding all units of existing standard operating procedures and policies in relation to the arrest of minors. Existing standard operating procedures stipulate that: hand-tying should be done at the discretion of the head of forces and always with three plastic ties in accordance with the 2010 regulations.

According to evidence collected by Military Court watch (MCW) in 2016, 90 percent of children continue to be restrained upon arrest, generally with plastic hand ties, and 85 percent report being blindfolded. In situations where plastic hand ties are used, many children continue to report experiencing pain. In 67 percent of cases where restraints are used, the military regulations for their use continue to be disregarded.

Although UNICEF and the UK reports also recommended that children should never be restrained while attending court except in extreme and unusual circumstances, children continue to be shackled by the ankles during their appearances in the military courts.

In a revealing video testimony provided by a female soldier to the Israeli organisation – Breaking the Silence – a credible explanation is provided as to one of the reasons why there appears to be such a gulf between the military regulations and what in fact happens in the West Bank on a daily basis. In the context of escorting detainees to prison, the soldier acknowledges how this task was considered a nuisance and how soldiers would sometimes take out their frustration on the prisoners – “If I could tighten their handcuffs,” says the soldier, “then I did” – confirming perhaps what everyone already knows – that prolonged military occupation is likely to be corrosive to anyone who comes in contact with it.