Israeli authorities last week placed three Palestinian minors from East Jerusalem under administrative detention, a move rights group say is unprecedented in the city, as Israel heightens security measures amid a month of deadly violence.
On Oct. 19, Fadi Abassi, 17, and Mohammed Ghaith, 17, were arrested following dawn raids on their homes in the neighborhood of Silwan, according to Defense for Children International – Palestine.
Days earlier on Oct. 16, Kathem Sbeih, 17, was detained from his family home in Jabal al-Mukkabir, a neighborhood at the heart of current tensions which Israel earlier in the month sealed off from the neighboring East Talpiot settlement with concrete blocks and a wall.
The policy of administrative detention — which dates back to emergency laws under the British Mandate — came under intense scrutiny earlier this year following a 65 day hunger strike by Palestinian detainee Muhammad Allan to protest his detention without trial.
In April, the United Nations Human Rights Office explicitly criticized the policy following the detention without trial of Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar, calling on Israel to end the practice once and for all.
Despite this, the policy — which relies on secret information withheld from the accused and their lawyers — has been widely implemented since the escalation of violence in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
In East Jerusalem, the policy is authorized under an Emergency Powers law, which allows the Israeli Minister of Defense to administratively detain any individual deemed a threat to public or state security.
Israel has been declared as being in a “state of emergency” since 1948, effectively meaning arbitrary detention can be imposed on any individual at anytime, according to rights group Adalah.
Since the beginning of October, at least 94 administrative detention orders have been issued against Palestinians, with 24 in East Jerusalem alone, Rafat Sub Laban, a lobbying and advocacy unit coordinator at Addameer, told Ma’an.
There were around 343 Palestinians imprisoned under the policy as of the end of September.
The orders issued against the three Palestinian teenagers this month are simply an expansion of this policy, albeit unparalleled.
The last time an administrative detention order was issued for a Palestinian minor was in 2011, according to DCI, but the child was from the occupied West Bank.
“It’s part and parcel of the ideology and policies of Israeli authorities to suppress the Palestinian people who are living there.”
All three teenagers were detained on charges of throwing stones at Israeli police vehicles and questioned at the Oz and al-Mascobiya interrogation centers.
A day later, Ghaith and his lawyer were informed of a three month order, while Sbeih was told on Oct. 26 that a three month detention order would be upheld.
DCI says that neither Abassi or Ghaith were informed of their right to remain silent and were not allowed to consult a lawyer prior to their interrogation, which took place without the presence of a family member.
Abassi’s father, Hassan, told Ma’an that Fadi was detained from their home as other members of the family were made to wait in a separate room.
Fadi dropped out of school but had recently signed up to be part of a sports club. After he was arrested the family knew nothing of his whereabouts until they contacted a lawyer, but Hassan said he wasn’t surprised by the arrest.
“That is the life now of every youth in Jerusalem,” he told Ma’an.
‘Injured, killed or detained’
The official reason given for the children’s arrest was that they were an “immediate and severe threat to the national security of Israel,” Sub Laban says, a generic justification for detention without trial based on emergency laws.
Palestinian children in East Jerusalem are in theory meant to be tried under Israeli civil law, like their Jewish counterparts, where there are more safeguards, but in the case of Fadi, Mohammed, and Kathem, they are being treated like Palestinians from the West Bank living under Israeli military law.
DCI says that applying the policy to children from East Jerusalem is part of an escalation in repressive security measures imposed against Palestinians in general, with over 106 Palestinian children injured and at least 13 killed since Oct. 1.
A range of policies, including harsher sentencing for stone-throwers and relaxing live-fire regulations, have put Palestinian children directly at risk.
“Israel is trying to restore security, but children are losing their freedom and are being denied liberty and their human rights. It violates Israel’s international and domestic obligations,” Bashar Jamal, an Advocacy Officer with DCI, says.
“Children are falling victim to the situation.”
Sub Laban, from Addameer, says there is now a trend to use administrative detention instead of charging Palestinians with actual crimes.
DCI says the three teenagers should be tried or released, as they are effectively being imprisoned by the Israeli state.
The group says it is especially concerned that the youths were originally brought in on stone-throwing charges but then transferred to administrative detention, with no evidence presented from their interrogations.
“It’s an escalation in the violation of children’s rights. Their rights are violated on a regular basis, but there has been an escalation in October,” Jamal, from DCI, says.