The Israel Defense Forces‘ detention of a five-year-old Palestinian boy in Hebron earlier this month was a legitimate step in order to “thwart the threat posed by the activities of a minor,” the IDF’s legal adviser in the West Bank has ruled, informs Haaretz. The advisor said though that detaining the boy’s father was not justified.
The Israeli human rights watchdog B’Tselem videotaped IDF soldiers detaining five year old Wadi Maswadeh, after he allegedly threw a stone at a car. Then the organization asked for an investigation on the incident.
B’Tselem, is not satisfied with IDF legal advisor answer and said that in his letter, “he addressed the general issue of soldiers having to deal with a complex reality in which children under the age of criminal responsibility throw stones. Regarding the detention of Wadi Maswadeh, the advisor justified the soldiers’ conduct from beginning to end, except their blindfolding and handcuffing the child’s father. B’Tselem sent a reply, emphasizing that the soldiers had acted in a fundamentally unacceptable way throughout the incident, and that acknowledging the complexity of the reality in which they operate cannot justify blatantly unlawful violation of children’s rights and harm to their welfare”.
According to the videotaped images and the B’Tselem press release, on Tuesday, 9 July 2013, at around 3:30 P.M., seven soldiers and an officer detained Wadi Maswadeh, who is five years and nine months old close to ‘Abed checkpoint, near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, after he allegedly threw a stone. After local residents who had gathered at the spot tried to intervene, the soldiers put the crying child into a jeep with another Palestinian resident and took him home. When they reached the house, the officer informed Wadi’s mother that he intended to hand him over to the Palestinian Police. The mother refused to let them take the child before his father, Karam, came home. About half an hour after Wadi was detained, Karam Maswadeh came home. The officer informed Maswadeh that he was arresting his son in order to hand him over to the Palestinian Police. Meanwhile, Wadi had spent the entire time hiding behind a pile of mattresses in the house and crying. The parents made it clear to the officer that the child is five years old, but the officer insisted on taking him to the DCO and threatened them, saying that the army would arrest the father if they did not comply. The soldiers then made Karam and his son leave the house and walk to the army camp on a-Shuhada street.
“When I got home, I saw several soldiers standing at the entrance to my house”, said Karam. “An officer came up to me and ordered me to get my son, Wadi’a. Before I got home, the soldiers had tried to persuade my wife to hand Wadi’a over, but she had refused to do it until I came back. The officer told me that he was going to arrest Wadi’a and hand him over to the Palestinian Coordination. I asked him: “Why arrest a five-year-old boy?” A soldier standing next to the officer showed me a stone and claimed that my son had thrown it, and that it had hit the car of a settler who was driving north, near ‘Abed checkpoint. I tried to persuade the officer not to take Wadi’ to the DCO, but he said that if I didn’t bring him, I’d be arrested. […] I went inside the house and got Wadi’, who was hiding there. He was crying.”
Wadi and his father were taken to the army base, where they were detained for half an hour. Then, the soldiers handcuffed and blindfolded Karam and walked him, in full public view, together with his son, to the Policeman’s checkpoint, where the soldiers detained them for another thirty minutes. At that point, a lieutenant colonel arrived whom the father, who speaks Hebrew, understood to be an Israeli coordination officer from the DCO. The officer questioned Wadi and asked him why he had thrown stones. He also reprimanded the soldiers for arresting the father and son in the presence of video cameras, and complained that “you’re harming our public image”. The officer made it clear to the soldiers that, when detainees are held with cameras around, they must be “treated nicely”. Then, one of the soldiers untied the father’s hands, removed his blindfold and gave him water. A few minutes later, an officer from the Palestinian DCO and several Palestinian policemen arrived. The soldiers handed Karam and Wadi Maswadeh over to them, and the two were taken to a Palestinian police station, where they were briefly questioned and released, all this according to the report of B’Tselem
According to Haaretz the IDF legal adviser says that minors under the age of 12 are not criminally responsible, but
“that does not mean that IDF soldiers are not authorized to deal with incidents where a minor is endangering the safety of the public, and is even endangering himself or herself”. “In situations where IDF soldiers see children performing dangerous actions, such as hurling stones at passing vehicles, it would be totally irresponsible on the part of these soldiers to ignore what is happening and to allow the children to persist in their actions without any interference and to continue with their hazardous behavior.”
He defines the incident in Hebron as a “complex dilemma” and states that, in such cases, IDF soldiers must behave “with the required measure of sensitivity, while continually protecting the welfare of the children and guarding to the optimal level their dignity and their needs as minors,” informs Haaretz.
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