Palestinian solidarity activists have urged all South Africans to get behind the Free Ahed Tamimi and All Child Prisoners campaign . The campaign was launched in Cape Town today, as Ahed spends her 17th birthday in prison. The Palestinian teenager has been in a military prison since December, after she slapped an Israeli soldier in a viral video, The slap was in response to a group of Israeli soldiers attempting to forcibly enter her home, allegedly to use her house as a vantage point for intimidating other Palestinian children in the area with gunfire.
Soldiers had entered the village of Nabi Saleh and had been shooting rubber bullets, sound-bombs and teargas canisters that had shattered several windows in her home. Ahed’s 14 year old cousin, Mohammed Tamimi had minutes before, been shot in the face with a rubber-coated metal bullet at close range that penetrated his skull. Ahed was arrested three days after the “slap incident” in a pre-dawn raid on her home on 19 December 2017, has been denied bail and remains in detention.
Since their arrest, there has been a global outcry in support of Ahed and her family. Addressing the media today, Alex Hotz from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign slammed Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinian children.
“Israel is the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts that lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees. In the West Bank, there are two separate legal systems in the same territory. No Israeli settler child comes into contact with the military court system. Palestinian children however are subjected to various forms of torture and cruel treatment, such as blindfolding, sleep deprivation and physical violence in the form of handcuffing, beating, starving, swearing and insults, threatening to arrest or hurt their family members, immense psychological pressure is exerted to extract confessions and to sign paperwork in Hebrew, a language they don’t understand,” she said.
Amnesty International has confirmed that children are routinely subjected to prolonged interrogation with no access to lawyers or while in solitary confinement.
A similar campaign by several other pro-Palestinian organisations was launched in Johannesburg on Wednesday at Constitutional Hill. The Johannesburg launch was opened with spoken statements from representatives from the campaign, video statements by Bassem Tamimi and child activist Janna Jihad, and a recounting of experiences by ex-prisoners of the Women’s Jail.
“As South Africans, the brutality of Apartheid resides in our not so distant past. For the Palestinians, this brutality and injustice is their daily reality. Palestinian children should not be detained or prosecuted under the jurisdiction of military courts. However, as a minimum safeguard, while Palestinians continue to be subjected to the dictates of military occupation, Israeli authorities must respect and ensure basic due process rights and immediately prohibit torture and ill-treatment. From the moment of arrest, operations and procedures must be carried out in accordance with international juvenile justice standards, specifically the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” said the PSC.
From the moment of arrest, operations and procedures must be carried out in accordance with international juvenile justice standards, specifically the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including:
• Detention must only be used as a last resort, and only for the shortest appropriate time;
• Children must not be subjected to physical or psychological violence;
• Children must have access to legal consultation and parents prior to and during interrogations;
• Children must only be arrested during daylight hours;
• Children must be properly informed of their right to silence;
• Children must not be blindfolded or painfully restrained;
• Children must not be subjected to coercive force or threats; All interrogations must be audio-visually recorded;
• Any incriminating evidence obtained during interrogation where a child was not properly and effectively informed of his or her right to silence must be excluded by the military courts;
• Any statement made as a result of torture or ill-treatment must be excluded as evidence in any proceeding;
• The practice of using solitary confinement on children in Israeli military detention, whether in pre-trial detention for interrogation purposes or as a form of punishment, must be stopped immediately and the prohibition must be enshrined in law;
• The practice of using administrative detention orders against Palestinian children must stop immediately and the prohibition must be enshrined in law;
• All credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be thoroughly and impartially investigated in accordance with international standards, and perpetrators brought promptly to justice; and
• Children must not be transferred out of the West Bank in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.