Following a four-month prison sentence and a 2000 NIS ($USD) fine, 15-year-old Khaled al-Sheikh finally walked free from Israeli prison in Ofer yesterday, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, April 17. Greeted by his parents, al-Sheikh recounted his experience in Israeli prisons: “The [Israelis] attacked me with rifle butts on the head and insulted me during the investigation,” he said. “Although I suffer from anaemia, they did not give me any medical help, apart from some painkillers.” He added that it was a “tough” investigation. “I was insulted and beaten and held in shackles for hours in a small cell.” This did not scare him. “This is the [Israeli] occupation. It will not scare us.”
Al-Sheikh was one of 1,200 Palestinian children detained in 2014; there have been another 200 detained so far in 2015. Between 500 and 700 Palestinian children are brought before Israeli military courts each year. Like Khaled, many are charged with throwing stones; his father reported he was throwing stones against a wall in his village of Beit Anan.
Photos of Khaled’s release:
Al-Sheikh’s parents were denied family visits throughout his detention; they were granted a permit for a visit for May, weeks after he would be released. Patrick Strickland reported in the Electronic Intifada that:
These are not isolated cases. Research by Defence for Children International-Palestine indicates that three-quarters of Palestinian children detained by Israel in 2014 endured some form of physical violence between the period of their arrest and interrogation. Half of them were also strip searched.
Between 2012 and 2014, Israel also held 54 children in solitary confinement before charging them with any offense.
Israeli interrogators often blindfold, bind and threaten children, according to various human rights groups. A report published in August 2013 by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem paints a horrifying picture of the systematic abuse Palestinian children face during Israeli detention.
From November 2009 until July 2013, B’Tselem investigated dozens of cases of abuse in a police station in Etzion, a Jewish-only settlement in the West Bank. From fifty-six child detainees, at least twelve reported that interrogators threatened them or female relatives with rape, genital injury or other forms of sexual violence.
A recent report by UNICEF, the United Nations children’s fund, reaches similar conclusions. From 208 affidavits that UNICEF collected in 2013, at least 163 children reported not being adequately notified of their legal rights, especially the right to a lawyer and the right to remain silent.
Other high-profile cases of imprisoned Palestinian children, including teens, include the Hares Boys, who have been held for over two years, since they were 15 to 17 years old. To take action for their freedom – and all imprisoned Palestinian children – visit the Campaign to Free the Hares Boys and Defense for Children International Palestine.