'Child protection laws broken during Silwan interrogations'

60 professionals write to PM, A-G about concerns that police conduct in east J'lem affects physical, emotional well-being of youths.

November 25, 2010 06:16
2 minute read.
Masked youth throwing rocks in Silwan

Throwing rocks in silwan 311 AP. (photo credit: Associated Press)

The police have been ignoring laws meant to protect minors during a yearlong crackdown on children who throw rocks at Israeli targets in the capital’s Silwan neighborhood, a group of 60 medical professionals, psychologists, educators, social workers, legislators and children’s book writers complained on Wednesday in a letter to Israeli political leaders.

“We are writing to express our deep concern for the physical and emotional well-being and the proper development of children and youths in east Jerusalem in the face of police conduct during the interrogation and detention of minors in this area,” the correspondents wrote.

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Among those who signed the letter were former Tel Aviv District Court judge Saviona Rotlevi, author Yehuda Atlas, Tel Aviv University professor Daniel Bar- Tal, retired Hebrew University criminologist Leslie Sabba, former deputy attorney- general Yehudit Karp and founder and president of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, psychiatrist Ruhama Marton.

The letter was addressed to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein and others, and was timed to coincide with the week in which the International Day of the Child is marked.

Over the past year, police have interrogated more than 1,200 children and youths up to the age of 18 in east Jerusalem on suspicion of throwing rocks, according to the letter.

Some of those arrested have been under the age of 12, the lower limit for criminal responsibility.

The correspondents wrote that over the past year, and especially over the last few months, there has been “an increasing number of testimonies by minors and their families pointing to gross violations of the rights of detainees who are minors and the use of violence in their interrogation.”

They said they were especially concerned about the treatment of children under the age of 12.

“Despite their young age, they were not spared harsh and injurious interrogation,” the writers charged.

“For example, an eight-yearold child testified that he was taken from his bed in the middle of the night and held in jail at the police station for four hours. Another child, aged 10, returned from an interrogation with bruises on his back which, he said, he sustained during his arrest and interrogation.”

The laws protecting minors specify that children should be interrogated by specially trained juvenile investigators, in the presence of their parents or other relatives, in daylight and without violence.

They must not be handcuffed and detention must only be a last resort.

Requests to deviate from these regulations may only be made in exceptional circumstances and in writing.

“Regretfully, based on testimony we have received, it seems that there is not a sign of any of this in the encounter between many east Jerusalem children and the police,” the correspondents wrote.

Graciela Karmon, who has been a doctor and child psychiatrist for 36 years, told The Jerusalem Post that she signed the letter because she knew what this kind of treatment can lead to in children.

“There can be immediate reactions such as fears, severe anxiety attacks, inability to function, bedwetting, withdrawal from society, depression, outbursts of anger – in other words, a wide variety of symptoms,” she said.

Karmon added that while police failed to observe child protection laws when it came to Palestinian children, they did not treat Jewish children the same way when they broke the law.

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