Evidence updated: Night arrests and summonses
[9 February 2023] – Each year Israeli soldiers conduct between 3,500 - 4,500 search and arrest operations in Palestinian communities in the West Bank.[i] This averages out at 10-12 operations each day. In over 80 percent[ii] of these cases the operations occur at night and involve the arrest of between 300-600 children annually.[iii] Israel justifies this practice on the basis that the territory is subject to a temporary military occupation - since 7 June 1967.
It is well documented that sending heavily armed soldiers into civilian homes at night to arrest children instils fear and causes trauma.[iv] (See Nadine A. and Fatima A.A.) The detrimental impact of this practice prompted UNICEF in 2013 to recommend a prohibition on the night arrest of children and a call for the use of written summonses as a practical alternative.[v] Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it would consider these recommendations and a pilot study to issue written summonses was introduced in 2014.[vi]
The results from the pilot study are not encouraging. First, between 2014 and 2020 written summonses were used in just 7 percent of cases.[vii] Secondly, in cases where summonses were used, they were mostly delivered in night-time military raids on the family home - largely defeating the purpose of a summons. Thirdly, in cases where summonses were used they were frequently written in Hebrew. And finally, the military authorities have confirmed that they kept no records relating to the study, casting doubt on whether it was ever implemented in good faith.[viii]
On 1 August 2021, the military authorities announced the introduction of new procedures for summonsing children. While the procedures remain classified, the authorities have indicated that summonses will not be used if:
1. The child is wanted for interrogation by an agency other than the police; or
2. The child is suspected of a "severe offence" (undefined) or has a record of committing "severe offences".
Since 1 August 2021, MCW has documented 38 cases involving the night arrest of children. In just one case was a written summons used - the summons was served at 3:15 a.m. on the parents of a 14-year-old boy during a military raid on the family's home. (N.N.R.T. - 24 October 2021)
During the same period, MCW documented two cases in which a telephone summons was used. In one case, an Israeli military commander phoned the grandfather of a 14-year-old boy and told him to bring the boy to Bet El settlement or he would come to their home and "shoot the boy". (M.A.I.H. - 5 September 2021).
In the other case an Israeli policeman phoned the mother of a 12-year-old boy and told her to bring the boy to the police station. The boy and his father went to the police station as instructed and waited before being told to come back the next day. The next day, the boy and his father returned but were again told to return the next day. The father decided not to return a third time. Five months later, the army raided the family home at 2:00 a.m. and detained the boy for 7 days. (Y.M.A.A. - 27 July 2022)
In two cases documented by MCW since the introduction of the new procedures, the Israeli military conducted night time arrest operations only to find that the boys were not at home. In both cases the soldiers took other family members hostage until the boys turned themselves in - a practice prohibited under international law - (H.A.M.H. - 18 November 2021 and H.A.M.Q. - 7 March 2022).
Based on the most recent evidence collected by MCW (35 testimonies), 60 percent of Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military in the West Bank continue to be arrested at night and in no cases was a written summons used. The current rate of night arrests is 9 percent above the rate of night arrests when UNICEF called for a prohibition on the practice in 2013. MCW will continue to monitor developments.
[i] Information collected by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories (OCHA oPt) and presented in the Protection of Civilians Reports (2018-2022) (5 year average: 3,816). Available at: https://is.gd/FATDGs
[ii] See Yesh Din, Breaking the Silence and Physicians for Human Rights, A Life Exposed: Military invasions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank, )November 2020), page 12 ("88% of the recorded invasions began between midnight and 5:00 A.M.").
[iii] Based on the assumption that between 500 - 1,000 Palestinian children are arrested each year by the Israeli military in the West Bank and 60 percent of these children are arrested at night: See MCW Comparative Graph (6 February 2023. Available at: https://is.gd/ECkhZf
[iv] See, for example: UN Committee Against Torture - Concluding Observations (2009); Breaking the Silence: Occupation of the Territories (2000-2010); UN Human Rights Committee - Concluding Observations (July 2010); US State Department human rights report (April 2011); B'Tselem, No Minor Matter, (July 2011); Adalah, PHR(Israel) and Al Mazan, False Confessions of Palestinian Children and Adolescents under Coercion, (November 2011); Children in Military Custody: A report written by a delegation of British lawyers on the treatment of Palestinian children under Israeli military law, (June 2012); UNICEF: Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations, (February 2013); UN Secretary General's Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, (May 2013); UN Committee on the Rights of the Child - Concluding Observations, (June 2013); B'Tselem, Abuse and torture in interrogations of dozens of Palestinian minors in the Israel police Etzion facility, (August 2013); UN Human Rights Council: Draft report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (Israel), (November 2013); ACRI, One Rule Two Legal Systems, (October 2014); UN Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Makarim Wibisono, (January 2016); ACRI, Arrests, interrogations and indictments of Palestinian minors in the Occupied Territories: Facts and figures for 2014, (February 2016); B'Tselem, Minors in Jeopardy, (March 2018); Hamoked, Childhood in Chains, (April 2018); Military Court Watch, Annual Report, (June 2020); Hamoked, Under cover of Darkness, (October 2020); Yesh Din, PHR-Israel and Breaking the Silence, A Life Exposed, (November 2020); The Independent, Bound, Blindfolded and Beaten by Israeli Troops, (June 2009); CNN, Israel accused of mistreating kids, (September 2010); The Guardian, Hundreds of Palestinian minors jailed for throwing stones, (July 2011); The Australian, Stone Cold Justice, (November 2011); Haaretz, Nearly 100% of all military court cases in the West Bank end in conviction, (November 2011); The Guardian, The Palestinian children, alone and bewildered, in Israel's Al Jalame jail, (January 2012); The New York Times, Palestinian's trial shines light on military justice, (February 2012); The Guardian, Israel subjecting Palestinian children to 'spiral of injustice', (June 2012); Chanel 4 News, Israel 'breaches rights of Palestinian children', (June 2012); The Jewish Chronicle, Israel 'in breach of law' over child detainees, (June 2012); BBC News, Israel 'breaching UN convention on child rights', (June 2012); The Sydney Morning Herald, Israel sees Palestinian children as 'potential terrorists', panel finds, (June 2012); Mondoweiss, Arrest of Palestinian children - 'A boy in leg irons' - is becoming a big story in the UK, (June 2012); The Daily Beast, Where's the shame? (July 2012); The Times of Israel, UN report says Israel routinely abuses Palestinian minors, (June 2013); ABC Four Corners: Stone Cold Justice, (February 2014). Etc, etc, etc. - For more media links see - https://is.gd/i8dK8D
[v] UNICEF: Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations, (February 2013) - recommendation no. 3(i). See also: Children in Military Custody: A report written by a delegation of British lawyers on the treatment of Palestinian children under Israeli military law, (June 2012) - recommendation no. 1.
[vi] UNICEF Bulletin No. 1 (October 2013). Available at: https://is.gd/UTKHe6
[vii] MCW Comparative Graph. Available at: https://is.gd/ECkhZf
[viii] A report published by the Israeli organisation Hamoked, tends to confirm the conclusion that the pilot study, such as it is, was never implemented in good faith. Hamoked notes that its "persistent attempts to receive figures about the pilot have proved fruitless. Time and again, both the military and the Israel Police claimed they did not have comprehensive data on the matter ... The response, which included no figures, also explicitly stated that "the Israel Police does not monitor or collect quantitative data on summons [...]. Also, there are no written conclusions or lessons drawn from the pilot". See Hamoked, Under cover of Darkness, (October 2020).