Childcare Experts Condemn Police Treatment of Palestinian Stone-throwers

Childcare experts call on authorities to monitor police interactions with minors; say 1,200 minors arrested for stone throwing in E. Jerusalem.

Sixty Israeli childcare experts and literary figures have 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, sent last week, came amid recent complaints that the police have been making illegal arrests and using questionable interrogation methods in their campaign against stone throwing.

Daniel Bar-On

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."

The parents of one 7-year-old, Adam Rishek of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, filed a police complaint last week stating that Border Police officers had beaten their child.

After some encouragement from a lawyer working for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the 7-year-old agreed to talk about what had happened. He said that after leaving school around noon on Wednesday, he saw a group of children running away from something. He had walked into a nearby kiosk, he said, when the officers burst in. "They kicked my leg and punched my shoulder and also slapped me. One of them asked me my name and my father's name," he said.

Returning home with bruises, the boy was taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in West Jerusalem, where after examining him, doctors told his parents to return the following week for a follow-up visit. Medical documents showed he had suffered injuries to the knee and elbow.

Jerusalem District Police declined comment.