Palestinian minors have committed atrocities ? but Israel's military justice system respects their rights in custody
Your special report looks at allegations that Israel's military justice system mistreats Palestinian children who have been arrested for throwing stones.
"Many are exhausted from sleep deprivation. Day after day they are fettered to the chair, then returned to solitary confinement. In the end, many sign confessions that they later say were coerced," you state. But you omit the horrific nature of the atrocities that minors, some as young as 12, can be arrested for.
Hakim Awad, 17, is a minor. Last March he and his 18-year-old cousin, Amjad, brutally murdered the Fogel family while they slept. No mercy was shown to three-month-old Hadas, her two brothers (aged four and 11) and their parents. The scene of the crime, including the severed head of a toddler, left even the most experienced of police officers devastated. The duo proudly confessed to their killings, and they have shown no subsequent remorse.
Between 2000-04, 292 minors took part in terrorist activities. Shocking images of Palestinian infants dressed in explosive vests are only the tip of the hate industry that Palestinian children are exposed to. Ismail Tsabaj, 12, Azi Mostafa, 13, and Yousuf Basam, 14, were sent by Hamas on a mission chillingly similar to the one involving the Fogels, aiming to penetrate a Jewish home at night and slaughter a family in their beds. In this case, the IDF fortunately stopped them in time.
Of the detainees, you report dismissively that "most are accused of throwing stones at soldiers or settlers", showing a bewildering disregard for this crime. Judah Shoham never reached the age of many of these minors, as he was killed by Palestinians throwing stones, aged just five months. Similarly, Jonathan Palmer never reached his second birthday; he was killed with his father when stones were hurled at their car last October.
Gerard Horton, of Defence for Children International, tells your reporter: "We're not saying offences aren't committed ? we're saying children have legal rights." Israel is in complete agreement. In the face of ever younger minors committing ever greater numbers of crimes, its efforts to maintain and even increase legal protections are impressive. When a minor involved in terrorist activity is arrested, the law is clear: no torture or humiliation is permitted, nor is solitary confinement in order to induce a confession ? which challenges the veracity of the accounts in your article.
Furthermore, a special juvenile court has been established to guarantee professional care for minors in detention. The above and other measures have succeeded in making legal proceedings easier for minors, and have almost halved their duration.
In the few days since the article was published, two minors (aged 16 and 17) shot at passing Israeli cars in the street. This was not the first crime these two had been involved in, having previously used firebombs as a weapon against Israelis.
It would be our wish that no minor would ever find themselves in Israeli custody. Unfortunately, we have to deal with the reality, not our dreams.
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