Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Child Abuse in Palestine

Yesterday I visited several families in a village near Bethlehem. We listened to children aged as young as 12 describe their harrowing experiences of repeated child abuse at the hands of Israeli soldiers.

One boy, Sami aged 12 (not his own name of course), sitting nervously between his parents, described being taken from his bed, blindfolded, cuffed and beaten in front of his parents.

Surrounded by soldiers he was forced to sit outside in the cold wearing only his pyjamas. Taken to a military base in a nearby settlement he described being slapped and beaten. In clear breach of Israeli law, he was denied access to his parents or to a lawyer, and interrogated until he signed a statement, written in Hebrew, confessing to throwing stones at settlers. Later convicted by an Israeli military court, Sami spent several months in prison.

Sami's mother told of how Israeli soldiers entered their home around 2:00am at night on 42 occasions over a period of 50 days.  On one occasion she woke to find Israeli soldiers with dogs in her bedroom, a women soldier filming the interrogation.

Woken night after night, the family including the women and children were repeatedly forced outside in the dark to be interrogated.  Sami's father said he believes the soldiers came to threaten and intimidate them for challenging the theft of village land by a nearby illegal Jewish settlement.

We listened to children in another family describe their experiences of being taken from their parents, bound, blindfolded, punched, kicked and slapped by Israeli soldiers, and held in settlement police stations, allegedly for the same offence.

Sadly, we have no reason to believe the experience of these children is unique. The systematic abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers has been investigated by several human rights organisations and constitute war crimes under the Geneva Conventions.

In August 2011, Defence of Children International published a report 'Voices from East Jerusalem: the Situation Facing Palestinian Children' which includes numerous case studies of children abused by the Israeli army. See www.dci-pal.org for more information.

See also  Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted: Children held in military detention (2012)