Thursday, 13 December 2012

Arrest: Not a minor issue

Yasid Sabah is a small, shy 14, year old boy with a winning smile, from the town of Urif, in the West Bank. The 5th of 6 children, his favourite subject at school are history and geography and he likes playing football.

On 1st December Yasid was arrested outside his home by Israeli soldiers, handcuffed and detained for 5 hours, driven around the area in a jeep, with no food or toilet facilities before being released into the custody of Palestinian Forces. He says that he was beaten by soldiers and taken first to the Itzhar Settlement near Urif and then Hwara military camp. He is in good spirits after this ordeal, though he admits to some difficulty sleeping.

His crime? Allegedly throwing stones. On the day Yasid was arrested Israel Settlers entered the town of Urif and attacked two houses, breaking windows and yelling abuse at the families inside. In the tumult that followed the Irsaeli army also entered the village, throwing sound bombs and tear gas, and later arrested Yasid and another teenage boy. Local community activist Abu Mohammed says that such events happen on an ‘almost daily basis’.

Yasid is far from alone. He is one of many minors arrested by Israeli authorities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories every year. Last year a report by a delegation of senior legal officials, supported by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, that visited Israel and the West Bank to review the situation of children in military custody, found that

"undisputed facts" pointed to at least six violations of the UN convention on the rights of the child, to which Israel is a signatory.”[1]

The report made 40 distinct recommendations for action that Israel should take in order to meet it’s obligations as an occupying power to upholding and promoting the rights of children in the OPT. In my short time here I have met many families with first-hand experience of the realities addressed in the report. Earlier this week for example our team spoke with a 12 year old who had been picked up on his way home from school and beaten by soldiers.

Yasid Khan with his father Mohammed
Yasid’s family are understandably delighted that he is back with them. However his picture and ID will be on file and he may be added to blacklists that prevent him from travelling and working outside of the West Bank once he becomes an adult. Once such restrictions are in place, they are rarely lifted. For example Yasid’s father has been unable to leave the West Bank since 1993, with no explanation from Israeli authorities as to why. Furthermore Yasid’s prior contact with the system, however unfounded, may count against him in any future dealings with Israeli security forces.

Urif is still vulnerable as a community too. On the day we visited Yasid over 10 soldiers and Israeli border police, along with 2 settlers carrying machine guns, entered the village again. It seems that such armed incursions will continue to be the norm for the foreseeable future, as will similar treatment for many more children like Yasid. Neither occupation practice can do anything for peace or justice.


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