Evidence update: Threats to extract confessions
[31 August 2023] – Over 10 years ago, UNICEF described the interrogation of children held in Israeli military detention as follows:
"The children are questioned by men dressed in civilian clothes or military uniforms, or sometimes in Israeli police uniforms. No child has been accompanied by a lawyer or family member during the interrogation [...] The children are rarely informed of their rights, particularly the right against self-incrimination [...] The interrogation mixes intimidation, threats and physical violence, with the clear purpose of forcing the child to confess. Children are restrained during the interrogation, in some cases to the chair they are sitting on [...] Children have been threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault, against themselves or a family member. Most children confess at the end of the interrogation."
When UNICEF published these words in 2013 - 47 percent of children reported being threatened following their detention by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank. Today, this number has risen to 73 percent. One advantage of threatening children during interrogation is that it leaves no physical trace of mistreatment when that child is ultimately brought before a military court. The practice is also an effective method of obtaining confessions. Some recent examples of the practice include:
- On 16 May 2023, a 14-year-old boy from Husan, in the occupied West Bank, was detained by Israeli forces in a military raid on his home at 3:00 a.m. He was then transferred to a police station in the illegal Israeli West Bank settlement block of Gush Etzion where he was interrogated. - "The interrogator spoke to me in a loud and aggressive voice. He threatened to keep me in prison for a long time if I did not confess. He also told me he was going to deny me a permit to enter Israel for seven years if I did not confess. He reminded me that they had revoked the work permits of my father and two older brothers and my three uncles soon after I had been shot. My father lost his job inside Israel where he had worked for 17 years."
- On 31 January 2023, a 14-year-old boy from Azzayyem, in the occupied West Bank, was detained by Israeli forces outside a shop at 7:30 p.m. He was then transferred to Ofer prison near Jerusalem where he was interrogated. "Then, without informing me of my right to silence, the interrogator asked me what I was doing in the area where I was arrested. I told her I was waiting for my friends who went into the shop. Then she accused me of throwing stones and a Molotov cocktail at the checkpoint. I denied the accusation. She threatened to arrest my parents if I did not confess. She also threatened to keep me in prison for five years. At the end of the interrogation she asked me to sign documents written in Hebrew."
Other examples of the types of threats used during interrogation include: home demolition; life imprisonment; death threats; threats of torture; solitary confinement; administrative detention; threat of rape; threat to rape a child's mother and sister; tasering; and electrocution.
Ten years ago, UNICEF made 3 recommendations with a view to eliminating this practice: first, every child should be accompanied by a parent during interrogation; secondly, a lawyer should accompany each child throughout their interrogation; and thirdly, every interrogation should be audio-visually recorded for independent oversight. None of UNICEF's recommendations have been implemented.
Based on nearly 1,100 testimonies collected by MCW since 2013, it is estimated that the use of threats by Israeli interrogators on Palestinian children affects between 300-600 children each year - or 17,000-34,000 children since June 1967.[i] In the absence of domestic or international accountability, this situation is entirely foreseeable and certain to continue.
- Evidence update: access to lawyers
- Evidence update: right to silence
- Evidence update: unlawful transfer
- Evidence update: night arrests and summonses
- Evidence update: documentation in Hebrew
- Evidence update: physical violence
- Evidence update: floor transfer
- Evidence update: blindfolds
- Evidence update: hand ties
[i] Based on 1,093 testimonies collected by MCW since 2013 with a 61 percent average reported rate of the use of threats and applying this percentage to an annual detention rate of between 500-1,000 children.