An NGO on Tuesday accused the state of torturing Palestinian children suspected of minor crimes, including placing them in outdoor cages during the worst of the recent storm, and of other acts designed to terrify the children.
The practice of placing the children in outdoor cages was halted when Justice Minister Tzipi Livni learned of it and immediately telephoned Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, telling him to end the practice.
International law does little to define torture in a binding manner and groups advocating against torture often argue that ill treatment should also be defined as torture.
The NGO, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, said the issue was a longstanding one, but that it was drawing special attention to the issue in light of Tuesday’s hearing in the Knesset’s Public Petitions Committee on related issues and a recent report on the issue by the Public Defender’s Office.
According to the Public Defender’s Office, it learned of the issue during a standard visit to prison complex in Ramle at the height of the storm, with the children enduring freezing temperatures and inclement weather outside a transit facility.
The children were to be held outside for a number of hours overnight after their arrest until they were to be brought to court in the early morning.
Livni’s office confirmed that she had personally intervened.
It was unclear who within the Prisons Service initiated the practice, why it was initiated or who decided to continue it despite the adverse weather conditions, but the service responded that since it had received criticism the situation had been improved.
The Public Committee Against Torture said that the practice was just one example of the torture and ill treatment of Palestinian children by law enforcement.
In that regard, later Tuesday the Knesset committee said that the manner of arrest and detention conditions of Palestinian children was violating Israeli law for dealing with children.
The committee also complained that the state “lacked data” for answering the panel’s questions about the frequency and scope of those practices it objected to such as midnight arrests.
Yesh Atid MK Adi Kol sounded a note of exasperation, saying “We do not need to throw a child out of his bed at night.”
The Public Committee Against Torture cited the Istanbul Protocol Manual that discusses various authorities illegally using torture or ill treatment to extract information from children. It did also say it is actively campaigning to redefine “torture” at a lower threshold of abuse when it comes to children.
Followup - Feburary 12
Pertaining to the December 31 story, 'Livni halts practice of placing detained Palestinian children in outdoor cages,' the 'Post' stands by its report and wishes to clarify that indications are that the practice pertained to Israelis, Palestinians, grown-ups and children without distinction.
NGO The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel continues to stand by its claim that Palestinian children were subject to the policy. There are no parties, including the Israel Prisons Service (IPS), that categorically deny this. Many officials say that there were no Palestinian detainees during a particular episode investigated by the Public Defender, but off-the-record, some of these officials acknowledge there were probably Palestinians involved during the months that the practice went on.