A new report, Unprotected: The Detention of Palestinian Teenagers in East Jerusalem, published by the human rights NGOs HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual and B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories – reveals broad, systemic abuse by Israeli authorities, including the police, the Israel Prison Service and the courts, of the human rights of hundreds of Palestinian teenagers arrested every year in East Jerusalem.
According to 60 affidavits that B’Tselem and HaMoked collected from May 2015 to October 2016, Palestinian teenagers from East Jerusalem are pulled out of bed in the middle of the night, unnecessarily handcuffed and interrogated without being given the opportunity to speak to a lawyer or their parents before the questioning begins and without being informed of their right to remain silent. They are then held under harsh conditions, repeatedly remanded to custodial detention for additional period of days and even weeks, even once their interrogation has ended. In some cases, all this is attended by verbal abuse or threats and physical abuse.
The boys find themselves alone in a threatening and bewildering situation, with no one explaining what they are suspected of, what their rights are, whom they may confer with, how long the process will take and when they will return to their homes and families. Until they are released, they have no adult they can trust by their side and their parents are kept away. These arrest and interrogation practices leave authorities free to pressure the detained minors into confessing to allegations. In addition, indeed, many sign involuntary confessions, some which are false and others which are written in a language they do not understand.
According to the report “These practices cannot be viewed as separate from the policy of Israeli authorities to encourage Palestinian residents to leave East Jerusalem: strict bans imposed on residential construction, forcing East Jerusalem residents to live in overcrowded conditions or risk building without a permit and then live in fear of demolition; stringent policies with regards to family reunification do not allow East Jerusalem residents who married Palestinians from elsewhere in the West Bank or from the Gaza Strip to live with their spouses in the city; and institutional, systemic discrimination practiced in municipal and state budgeting, as a result of which East Jerusalem residents suffer from substandard infrastructure and a chronic shortage of public services.”
Given all of the above, one of the grave conclusions arising from the report is that real change will come only if the reality in Jerusalem is completely overhauled. The reality described in this report is part of the underpinnings of Israeli control over the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem. So long as this control continues, Israeli authorities will in all probability continue to treat Palestinians in East Jerusalem as unwanted, less equal people, with all that implies.