Saturday, 7 August 2010

Trauma in the night

It's the middle of the night. A family are asleep. The door bangs and a child is taken from bed, led away, terrified and confused, ready to be incarcerated, indefinitely, in a place unknown to their alarmed parents.

It's an all-too-typical scenario for Palestinian kids, as this (2009) Save the Children report shows:

"According to Save the Children, Palestinian children are typically arrested between midnight and 4a.m. without their families being notified where the child is being taken. The children are normally handcuffed, blindfolded, and subjected to physical abuse in addition to humiliating treatment during arrest and can be detained up to 90 days without access to a lawyer whilst being interrogated. Children can be detained for two years from the time charged until the trial.

Stone throwing is the most common offense Palestinian children are charged with under Israeli military law accounting for 26.7% of cases. The maximum penalty is 20 years imprisonment. Save the Children reports that in 91 percent of cases involving Palestinian children, bail is denied. The group also says that currently, 32.9 percent of sentenced children are 15 years of age or younger and that 21.25 percent are sentenced for a one-year period or longer."

The extent of the abuse has been corroborated by various child advocacy groups:

"Testimonials and events documented by human rights organizations show the abuse of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons to be regular and widespread.

Physical abuse, sexual abuse, torture, threats and intimidation as well as the denial of basic basic human rights, such as access to education are the most common forms of abuse, documents show.

In 2009, a report from the UK-based children's rights group Defence for Children International found, there were 305 Palestinian children being held in Israeli jails. The US-based NGO Save the Children further estimates, that over 6,700 children were arrested between October 2000 and April 2009. Both organizations confirm Israel routinely prosecutes Palestinian children as young as 12, describing the ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children as "widespread, systematic and institutionalised." "

A sample of the physical and sexual abuse:

Physical abuse

The physical abuse of children by soldiers has most frequently been documented as involving "slaps, kicks, punches or blows with a rifle stock or club," DCI stated.

Nearly all children surveyed by DCI, 97 percent, were held for hours with their hands cuffed, and 92 percent were blindfolded for long periods of time. Twenty-six percent said they were forced to remain in painful positions.

In 2010, Palestinian lawyer Hiba Masalha reported the case of Muhammad Rashid Abu Shahin, 16, from the Balata refugee camp. After being arrested, the youth said he was manhandled and beaten by soldiers using rifle butts. He was then transported to the Huwwara detention centre where where he was beaten with a plastic pipe to force a confession. The child is suffering chronic back pain as a result of being hit on the spine.

Sexual abuse

Fourteen percent of child prisoners surveyed by DCI said they were sexually abused or threatened with sexual assault to pressure them into confessions.

In May 2010, the Dubai-based Al-Jazeera news network published the testimony of an unnamed Palestinian child released from an Israeli jail.

"There was a dog barking outside the room… The soldier told me he would bring it in to f**k me if I didn't confess… I was so scared… The guy then took out a stick; he whipped it forward and it got longer. He told his friends, who were looking on and laughing at me: "This boy doesn't want to talk. Let's pull down his pants so I can shove this stick up his a**."

"I tried to hold on to the chair; he kept poking me, groping my privates with the stick, trying to get me off the chair."

And, of course, there's the long-term psychological impact of such treatment on these children. As Save the Children states:

"[M]ost detainees develop Post Traumatic Stress symptoms as a direct result of their abuse in prison. The psycho-social consequences of detention affect the immediate behavior of children, the way they think including their analysis of the outside world."

All part of childhood 'development' under the Occupation.


Original report at Ma'an News.

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