Child Arrest in Azzun

A child should be arrested only as a last resource and for the shortest possible time. Article 37 UN Convention on the rights of the child

Everyone under the age of 18 has all the rights in the Convention…. The Convention applies to everyone: whatever their ethnicity, gender, religion, abilities, whatever they think or say, whatever type of family they come from. Articles 1 & 2: UN Convention on the rights of the child

On November 6th the Ecumenical Accompaniers in Jayyous were called by our contact, Hassan Shbaita, in the municipal office in the neighbouring town of Azzun about six boys who were arrested in the early morning. Their ages are from 12-17 and one 18 year old. Two of my team mates went to the office and met one of the staff from B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation and were present when he interviewed the father of one of the arrested boys. Extracts from his testimony of the arrest follow:

“Around 2:30am, Tuesday November 6th while I was sleeping with my family in my house …. in Azzun, I woke up after I heard voices and knocking at the door. I stood up to check what was going on outside. I confirmed that the people outside are Israeli soldiers. I went down and found 20 soldiers in the yard of my house with 2 police dogs. They broke through the entrance to the house. One of the soldiers asked me about my sons in the house. They asked me to bring them my sons with their IDs. I woke up three of my sons (the oldest ones) and brought their IDs. The soldier said these were not the sons they were looking for. They asked me for my sons, A*** (13 years old) and O*** (10 years old). They ordered me to wake them up and bring them their IDs. I told the soldier that they are still children and don’t have IDs yet. The soldier asked for their birth certificates. They asked for A***. I asked them not to arrest my son. I said it is not logical to arrest underage children but the soldiers insisted and took him out of the house.”……..

“Then the military jeeps and soldiers left with my son. My son when very scared when they took him from the house and he wasn’t able to speak. In the morning I went to Ariel police centre and I called the phone number which he gave me but I wasn’t able to talk to him. I spoke with a female soldier who told me my son was not there. I went there near the entrance of the settlement for about an hour and a half and called the phone number to clarify where my son is. I did not get an answer.

Afterwards I came back to Azzun to see my family and tell the Palestinian authorities about the situation. I called an organization called Hamoked in Jerusalem to tell them about my son’s arrest. After ten minutes Hamoked staff told me that my son is in Ariel settlement.”

Hassan Shbaita
Photo: Maureen Jack

In the first week of November around sixteen boys and men were arrested in Azzun. In the case of A***, he was not accompanied by an adult (either parent or lawyer) when he was detained. He was later released and B’Tselem is following the case. Of the six children arrested that day, two were still in custody when we spoke with Hassan 12 days later. Hassan told us that ‘Doctors without Borders’ speak with as many children as possible after they’ve been released to assess their needs. Many are traumatised and have bad dreams.

Child arrest in the occupied Palestinian territories is commonplace. Mostly it is for throwing stones.  Often when they are arrested they are asked to inform on their friends. According to a UN report 500 to 700 children each year have been detained and prosecuted in the military courts. (UN Committee against Torture, Concluding Observations (Israel) (2009))

Caabu (The Council for Arab British Understanding) has recently published a report ‘Palestinian detainees: no security in injustice’ which includes the findings that 75% of children arrested suffer physical violence, around a third are strip searched and almost 30% are shown documents in Hebrew – a language they cannot understand.  Caabu’s report also highlights how there are entirely different legal procedures for Israeli and Palestinian children. If they are arrested in the West Bank,   Israeli children come under Israeli civil law but Palestinian children come under martial law. An Israeli child must see a civilian judge within 12 hours of arrest where a Palestinian child can wait four days and is then brought before a military court. An Israeli child has to be brought to trial within six months; a Palestinian child can wait two years. Israeli children cannot be imprisoned if they are under 14, where Palestinians as young as 12 can face prison.  If convicted, of those old enough, only 6.5% Israeli children ever get a custodial sentence compared with 90% of Palestinian children.

Israel’s position is that they have to defend their citizens from having stones thrown at them. I would also condemn stone-throwing. However, the context is the military occupation of Palestinian territories. The Israeli cars reportedly hit by stones are driving on roads and to settlements both illegal under international law.

Arrests and detention of children have a profound and long-term effect on the whole family. A man here in Jayyous told me about his son who was detained for three months for demonstrating against the building of the separation fence, five years ago when he was fifteen. ‘When your child comes out of prison, you get a different child back. He don’t want to go to school, he don’t want to go out, he don’t want to eat, he don’t want his life.’  ‘As a father you are supposed to protect your children.’ He paused, the pain evident on his face, ‘I could do nothing.’

I work for Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) as an ecumenical accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained in this email are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer (QPSW) or the World Council of Churches. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting it on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact the QPSW Programme Manager for I-oPt for permission. Thank you.


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One Response to Child Arrest in Azzun

  1. Patrick o Connor says:

    Disturbing stuff. Poor children and family’s..
    I’ve read a number of your blogs, Garoid sends links at times. He says you may visit us in Cloughjordan (Ecovillage/amnesty international group)sometime next year. We’d be grateful to hear of your experiences and impressions and of how you survive this emotionally. Well done to you.
    Sending a wish of comfort/shared humanity/hope To all



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