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5.3.2019

Brutal abuse of a minor in Israel Police custody – a complaint to the Police Investigation Unit

For years, Israel has been systematically violating the rights of Palestinian minors from East Jerusalem during their arrest and interrogation by the security forces. This despite the fact that the protections set in Israeli law for minors in custody ostensibly apply to them. Evidence to this can be found in the joint research of HaMoked and B’Tselem, based on the affidavits of Palestinian minors from the city, whose findings were published in 2017 in a report titled Unprotected: The Detention of Palestinian Teenagers in East Jerusalem. The affidavits portray a grim reality: traumatic nighttime arrests, police threats and brutality, and the denial of interrogee rights.

Without the protection of their parents or any other adult they can trust, the boys have to endure this entire process alone. Their parents are excluded from the proceedings altogether. Complying with a boy’s request for water or access to the bathroom is perceived to be entirely a matter of the whim and discretion of the official who happens to be there. This enables the law enforcement authorities to pressure the youths to confess, and many do in fact sign confessions extracted under duress, often written solely in Hebrew even if the youth does not understand this language. As a result, it becomes easier for the authorities to indict and even convict East Jerusalem youths.

An integral part of the fight against such unacceptable practices in the detention and interrogation of minors, as well as adults, is the filing of complaints to the competent authorities in the hope of obtaining accountability. Understandably, though, minors who were arrested and interrogated – whether they have been released or are still in custody – often prefer not to file complaints and initiate contact with the authorities, whether because of the trauma they suffered, fear of retribution directed at them or their family members, or because they lack faith in the accountability mechanisms – or a mixture of these reasons. But once in a while we encounter a minor who does want to file a complaint about his ordeal during detention and interrogation.

Thus happened in four cases presented in the report. Four teenagers, aged 14-17 at the time of arrest, suffered severe abuse while in police custody. They chose to file complaints to the Ministry of Justice Police Investigation Unit (PIU), but their cases were closed and nothing was done. It seems therefore that the routine conduct of the PIU is similar to that of other interrogation-accountability bodies. Even if investigations are launched, they are conducted superficially and in a non-exhaustive manner. As a result, investigation files are frequently closed without a recommendation to indict. All of which means offending police officers can act with de facto impunity.

Recently, HaMoked was contacted by a teenager from East Jerusalem who sought to file a complaint to the PIU following his brief but traumatic arrest and interrogation – his description offers additional proof that the police persist in their unacceptable conduct during the arrest and detention of minors from East Jerusalem.

The arrest and interrogation of 17-year-old AS (HaMoked case 105636):
AS was arrested in the early hours of November 18, 2018 by Israeli security forces, including border police officers.

  • He was woken from his sleep and arrested from his home in the pre-dawn hours. No arrest warrant was presented and there was no attempt to summon him for interrogation before this traumatic method of arrest.
  • When he was taken from his home, police officers cuffed his hand behind his back with cable ties and blindfolded him. At the Russian Compound police station in Jerusalem, they added tight metal handcuffs, which left marks on his wrists, and also cuffed his legs.
  • At the police station, police officers slapped him a few times; on reaching the station, he was thrown on the floor; later, when he was moved from room to room, they continued to beat his head, upper torso and abdomen; his head was struck against the wall of the corridor and on the floor, and he sustained an injury to his mouth and teeth. Later he was left on the floor and received kicks – all the while he remained blindfolded and cuffed hand and feet.
“Until they started the interrogation, I was held in a room and brutally beaten. The beatings continued even when they led me through the corridor to other rooms, slamming me hard into the wall. At some point one of them grabbed my head and banged it on the floor and I was injured in my mouth… My legs were also cuffed, and because of the handcuffing I couldn’t protect my head and myself in general… at one point they threw me on the kitchen floor and anyone that came to open the refrigerator would push my legs away. I asked them to let me sit up, and then one of those holding me said it would happen only after ‘we finish the massage’ and they continued to beat me.”

  • In the hours following his pre-dawn arrest, he was not allowed to rest, or given food or drink.
  • He remained barefoot for a long while after his shoes came off or were removed during the beating.
  • They threatened to give him electric shock unless he unlocked his cell phone for them.
  • His two interrogators at the station, wearing civilian clothes, did nothing after he told them about the beatings, and despite the fact that his lip was bleeding, they did not refer him to a doctor.
  • No adult on his behalf, parent or otherwise, was present during his interrogation.
  • AS was made to sign documents provided in Hebrew only, without translation and without being allowed to consult with a lawyer, despite his requests to do so.
He was released around noon of the same day.

On December 2, 2018, HaMoked sent a complaint to the PIU on AS’s behalf. Photos of the injuries and hospital medical documents were attached to the complaint (a day after his release his father took him for a checkup in hospital). In the complaint, HaMoked demanded that an investigation be launched into the severe police brutality the youth was subjected to, which contradicted, among other things, the clear police procedures on the detention of minors.

On December 13, 2018, the PIU took the testimony of the youth in the presence of an interpreter. No substantive response has yet arrived about the conclusion of the investigation.

HaMoked will continue to follow up on the case’s progress.
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