Rights Group: Israeli Police Illegally Arresting Palestinian Children

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Associated Press

Rights Group: Israeli Police Illegally Arresting Palestinian Children

B'Tselem report accuses police of arresting Palestinian minors as young as five in East Jerusalem and dealing with them in ways that violate the law.

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Soldiers detain a Palestinian teenager in Hebron, April 2010. (Photo by: Ma'an)

An Israeli human rights group is accusing
the police of arresting Palestinian minors as young as five in East
Jerusalem and dealing with them in ways that violate the law.

In a report released on Monday, B'Tselem
says Israeli police arrested at least 81 Palestinian minors between
November 2009 and October 2010 on suspicion of throwing stones at
Israelis in the flashpoint Silwan neighborhood near Jerusalem's Old
City.

The
report says police arrested many minors in their homes in Silwan at
night, seizing some from their beds. Undercover officers nabbed others
on the street. At least 30 of the 81 detained were younger than 15, the
report said. Four were younger than 12 and the youngest was five.

They were detained from a few hours to a few
days and interrogated, sometimes without parents present, the report
said. Some said police roughed them up. The report also says some were
released after paying fines as high as $1,300. Others were placed under
house arrest for up to two months, allowed only to go to school
accompanied by a parent.

B'Tselem said arresting and interrogating minors at night or without a parent present violates Israeli laws that protect minors.

Israeli police say the arrests are not only
legal but necessary to stamp out stone throwing, which often targets
police or West Bank settlers. It's especially common in parts of East
Jerusalem, where tensions run high between Palestinian residents and
Israeli police, settlers and their security guards.

Earlier this month, sixty Israeli childcare
experts and literary figures sent an open letter to the prime minister
and attorney general calling on the authorities to monitor more closely
police interactions with minors suspected of stone throwing in East
Jerusalem.

The letter came amid recent complaints that
the police have been making illegal arrests and using questionable
interrogation methods in their campaign against stone throwing.

According to the letter, police have
acknowledged arresting around 1,200 minors in East Jerusalem on
suspicion of stone throwing. But critics say that more troubling than
the absolute number is the manner in which youths are being detained and
questioned.

"Children and youth have reported being
taken from their beds in the middle of the night or apprehended by
undercover detectives and special forces in their neighborhoods," the
letter said. "They were brought in for questioning without a parental
escort and sometimes without having been able to notify their families
in time. Some were required to give names or to implicate their friends
and relatives as conditions for their release."

The letter also noted a growing trend of
underage suspects suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress
including nightmares, sleepwalking and bedwetting.

Detainees, it said, were subjected to
"threats and humiliation by interrogators, and their transfer and
detention were sometimes accompanied by considerable physical violence.
Particularly alarming are the testimonies showing that a number of
children under the age of 12 - the age of criminal liability - were
interrogated by police, who despite their age were forced to endure
harsh methods of interrogation."

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