Israel frees 12yo Palestinian girl after 2 months in jail

The mother (L) and brother of Palestinian Dima al-Wawi, 12, who is believed to be the youngest female detained by Israel, greet her in the West Bank city of Tulkarem, upon her release from Israeli prison on April 24, 2016. © Jaafar Ashtiyeh
Palestinian 12-year-old Dima Al-Wawi has been released from an Israeli prison. She was sentenced to four-and-a-half months in custody for allegedly plotting to carry out a stabbing attack against Israelis in the Hebron area. She spent two-and-a-half months behind bars.

The girl’s family have also been obliged to pay a fine of 8,000 Shekels (about $US2,080).

Having informed Dima’s family, who live in the town of Halhoul near Hebron, about her release, Israeli authorities handed the girl over to relatives at the Jbarrah checkpoint near Tulkarem in the West Bank on Sunday.

Israel’s practice of prosecuting children in military courts has been criticized in the report titled No Way to Treat a Child: Palestinian Children in the Israeli Military Detention System, compiled by Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCIP) and released on April 14.

“Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes between 500 and 700 children in military courts each year. Since 2012, Israel has held an average of 204 Palestinian children in custody each month,” the report says.

Most often Palestinian children are charged with throwing stones.

The report says that out of a total of 429 children who were detained between 2012 and 2015, 97 percent (416) had no access to legal counsel or their parents during the interrogation.

Nearly 42 percent (179 cases) of the children taken into custody were arrested in their homes in the middle of the night, according to the DCIP report. In 88 percent (378 out of 429) of cases the parents of the children arrested were neither informed about the charges brought against their children nor about the whereabouts of the detention facility.

The report lists harsh methods applied to make children confess to the allegations they are charged with, including isolation and solitary confinement. The tactics appear to have proved effective, since 90 percent of those locked up in solitary confinement - for an average period of 13 days - do eventually provide confessions, according to the report.

Israeli military courts usually do not pay specific attention to the way confessions have been obtained, despite the fact that a third of them (33.6 percent) have been drafted in Hebrew, a language Palestinian children rarely speak, let alone read and write.

“Regardless of guilt or innocence, Palestinian children overwhelmingly plead guilty in return for a lighter sentence. The alternative would be a prolonged period of remand that would likely exceed any sentence imposed from a plea agreement,” the report says.

Earlier in April, tactics used by the Israeli security forces to detain Palestinian children came under fire, with Human Rights Watch saying the youngsters are subject to “beatings” and are “treated in ways that would terrify and traumatize an adult.”

The report accused the Israeli authorities of numerous abuses of power, including physically abusing minors and routinely interrogating children without a parent or guardian present. This is in breach of both Israeli and international law, which entitles children to extra protection.