UN rights experts alarmed by detention of Palestinian girl
GENEVA (13 February 2018) – UN human rights experts* have expressed alarm over the case of Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi who, after an incident in which she slapped an Israeli soldier, appeared before an Israeli military court today. The experts called for her release during the proceedings and that future hearings be held in strict accordance with international legal standards.
Tamimi, who is now 17 years old, has been held in detention since she was arrested at her home by Israeli soldiers on 19 December 2017. At the time, she was 16. Four days earlier, she was filmed physically confronting Israeli soldiers on her family’s property in Nabi Salah, in the occupied West Bank.
On 1 January 2018, Tamimi was charged with a number of offences under Israeli military law, some stemming from the 15 December incident, and others dating back to April 2016. The court has ruled that she should remain in detention until the end of her trial. Tuesday’s hearing was adjourned until early March.
“The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Israel has ratified, clearly states that children are to be deprived of their liberty only as a last resort, and only for the shortest appropriate period of time,” said Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.
“None of the facts of this case would appear to justify her ongoing detention prior to her trial, particularly given the concerns expressed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child about the use of pre-trial detention and detention on remand.”
The experts said states were obliged to explore as far as possible alternatives to detention, and to ensure that children are dealt with in a manner appropriate to their well-being.
They noted that Tamimi was arrested in the middle of the night by well-armed soldiers, and then questioned by Israeli security officials without a lawyer or family members present. “This violates the fundamental legal guarantee to have access to counsel during interrogation,” said José Guevara, Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
The experts also expressed concern about her place of detention - Hasharon prison in Israel - in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states that the deportation of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the occupying power, or to that of any other country, is prohibited, regardless of the motive.
“Sadly, this is not an isolated case,” said Lynk. “Figures from Palestine show that Israel detains and prosecutes between 500 to 700 Palestinian children in military courts annually.
“We have received reports that these children are commonly mistreated while in detention, subjected to both physical and psychological abuse, deprived of access to lawyers or family members during interrogation, and tried under a military court system in which there are significant concerns regarding independence and impartiality, and which has a worryingly high conviction rate.” In this respect, the experts referred to various opinions on Israel adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention which have emphasized the right of children to be tried by a juvenile justice system rather than before military tribunals, in accordance with relevant international human rights law.
The experts called on the Israeli authorities to respect and ensure basic due process rights, with particular attention to the rights and protections afforded to children and re-emphasized their call for Tamimi to be released in accordance with these protections.
*The UN experts: Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.