Palestinian child Ahmad Manasrah, 14, was convicted by the Israeli Jerusalem district court on Tuesday, 10 May of two counts of “attempted murder,” for allegedly participating in an attack with his 15-year-old cousin Hassan Manasrah in an illegal Israeli settlement on occupation settlers. Manasrah will be sentenced on 11 July, according to Israeli media reports; the 14-year-old boy is threatened with a sentence up to life imprisonment.
Manasrah, 13 at the time of the alleged incident, was run over by an Israeli settler’s car and his cousin was shot and killed; while Ahmad has been held prisoner since that time, his cousin’s body has also been withheld, imprisoned by the Israeli occupation. Manasrah was severely injured by the car; a widely circulated video shows him lying on the ground, bleeding, while Israeli bystanders shout “Die, son of a whore!” and call on Israeli police to shoot him.
Another video was also widely circulated of Israeli police screaming and swearing at Manasrah in an interrogation. Manasrah’s experience in interrogation is not uncommon; Defence for Children International Palestine has reported that the vast majority of children imprisoned or arrested by Israeli occupation forces are subject to ill-treatment, torture and abuse, including threats, beating, and extended solitary confinement.
Speaking to Ma’an News, a lawyer working with the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, Tariq Barghouth, called the court decision “contestable,” adding that the court decision would likely be appealed.
‘We hope the Supreme Court will view this humanitarian case differently,’ Barghouth said. ‘Once again, the Israeli court proves its racist treatment of the Palestinians,’ the lawyer added, highlighting the ‘double standard’ of the Israeli justice system when it comes to punishing Palestinians accused of committing crimes against Israelis, compared to cases of settlers attacking Palestinians.”
Manasrah’s lawyer Lea Tsemel accused the legal system of being “dragged into discriminating between Jews and Arabs” contrasting the attempted murder charges Manasra was convicted of with the manslaughter charge levelled against Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, who is accused of shooting dead a wounded Palestinian assailant as he lay on the ground.
Palestinian lawyer Jamil Saadeh said that “the occupation deliberately kept the child Ahmad Manasrah imprisoned incide a reform center until he reached the legal age for full sentencing under Israeli law, which is the age of 14 years. This in itself is contrary to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and paves the way for issuing a sentence of life imprisonment for the child Manasrah. The court did not take into account what he suffered from the moment of his detention, being wounded, assaulted and cursed, treated inside the hospital as a threat, and screamed at during interrogation by the officers, all of which is documented on video and condemns the occupation.”
There are over 400 Palestinian children imprisoned in Israeli jails. Defence for Children International notes that “The maximum custodial sentence for a child aged 12 to 13 years is six months. The maximum custodial sentence for a child aged 14 to 15 years is 12 months, unless the offense carries a maximum potential sentence of five years or more. Children aged 16 to 17 years are subject to the same maximum potential sentences as adults.” In effect, however, because many offenses, from throwing stones to the “attempted murder” charges levied against Manasrah, carry sentences of greater than five years, children from the age of 14 years are regularly sentenced as adults. An international campaign has emerged to demand freedom for Manasrah and his fellow imprisoned children.
Early Tuesday morning, at least six Palestinian minors, including a 14-year-old boy, Ahmad Mazin Abu Khdeir, were among 16 Palestinians detained by Israeli occupation forces in pre-dawn raids.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network urges the release of Ahmad Manasrah and all imprisoned Palestinian children. We further urge international action to compel the Israeli state to respect the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and end international military aid and assistance that funds the imprisonment and torture of Palestinian children. We note that the imprisonment, oppression, and killing of Palestinian children by the Israeli occupation is part and parcel of the Israeli colonial project in Palestine, and that there is no true freedom for Palestinian children except through the freedom of the Palestinian people and Palestinian land.