Ofer - Stone Throwing, Minors
Translation: Marganit W.
In Justice Captain Sharon Rivlin-Ahai's court 24 children stood trial. On Mondays and Thursdays, in Courtroom 2 of the Military Court Captain Rivlin-Ahai serves as a juvenile judge. We observed about half the cases for two hours, until lunch break, as pairs of detainees were ushered in by a prison guard, handcuffed to each other. They all wore brown prison uniform, looking like a class of school kids, except that instead of teachers and aides there were only typists, a prosecutor and a judge.
At this point we'd like to cite the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child whose Article One states: "a child means every human being below the age of eighteen." Although Israel ratified the Convention in 1991, it violates it most blatantly and discriminatorily in the occupied Palestinian Territories. A recently published UN report states, "According to military rules governing the occupied Palestinian Territories, a child is a person below the age of sixteen, even though according to the civil law in Israel, which includes the Jewish settlements in the Territories, a child, or a minor is someone below the age of eighteen." Thus, from now on, we shall refer to all Palestinian minors as "children". "Children," by the way, is a common expression describing Israeli soldiers.
Cf. the article about the UN report in Haaretz:
Present in the court were "invited guests": an Australian reporter and a photographer, accompanied by two officers. They sat behind the prosecutor. The senior officer conversed with the prosecutor and actively followed the procedure on a computer. Presumably, he's a senior officer at the Military Prosecution. Our attempt to establish contact with the Australian reporter was rebuffed by the officers. The reporter did not exchange any words with the families, the lawyers or with us.
The photographer was invited to shoot inside the court and wordlessly took pictures of the first group of children who came in before the trial began.
Most of the children are charged with "hurling objects" and "manufacturing incendiary objects." They are mostly 15-16 year olds. As usual, a plea bargain is already in place or under way. We witnessed a scene where a father intervened in the discussion, arguing with the defense that his son should not admit to anything. He is still in custody. The reports below throw light on the harsh economic conditions of many Palestinian families. The children's detention, on top of the other problems, puts a heavy economic toll on families that are poor to begin with. The occupation authorities are well aware of this: they hit the Palestinians
in their pocket, hoping to "sear their conscience" and impact their conduct. Thus, we are not impressed when the justice system sometimes reduces the fines: it is merely cosmetic - faint veneer covering brutal rapacity.
Prosecutor: Major Ella Sirotinsky
Defense: Muhammad Mahmud
Defendant: Allam Yusuf Bader Za'ekik, age 15, ID 859483678 - Case No. 4415/10
Charge: "hurling objects at people or property".
Present in the court were the defendant's mother and his disabled father. The mother cried from time to time.
Allam accepted the charges and was convicted. The sides reached an agreement. During the prosecution's argument, Allam said, "Fridays and Saturdays I worked to support my family. The boss did not pay me, so we had a quarrel and I went home. Settlers who passed me by threw rocks at me. My father is sick."
The mother explained that the father had been sick for 11 years and does not work. The eldest daughter is a university student, and Allam works weekends to help pay her tuition. On his way home, he was furious because of the dispute with his employer, and when the settlers pelted him with rocks, he retaliated, out of anger. She asked the court to consider her son's situation and allow him to go back to school.
The judge gave Allam 4 months in jail and 6 months suspended sentence for 4 years. She took into consideration the family's economic circumstances and did not impose a fine.
Defendant: Bilal Issa Hassan Abu Hashem, age 15, ID 860156595 – Case No.4417/10.
Charge: "Hurling objects at people or property".
Bilal is theoretically released, but in fact he's detained because his family "was unable to pay the 5000 shekel deposit" imposed by the Appellate Court. During the session an agreement was reached, reducing the fine to 1500 shekels. Bilal admitted throwing one stone at the soldiers.
In addition to the reduced fine he was given 45 days in custody, which coincide with time spent in detention (he's been released in the meantime), as well as 6 months suspended sentence for 4 years.
Ramzi Rabah Abd Alrahim Alragbi, ID 401073267 - Case No.5064/09, age 14, from Shu'afat refugee camp, accused of throwing rocks.
Since he was released on bail, he came from home and sat in the audience waiting his turn. He came by himself: his mother was not allowed to enter the compound because she did not bring her ID card with.
Ramzi denies the allegations, explaining that he sells vegetables, and on the day in question, he was merely tossing rotten vegetables aside. At the same time, other kids were throwing rocks, and he was arrested with them.
He is represented by Atty. Muhammad Mahmud.
Next hearing is set for 20.12.10 when the arresting soldiers will probably be called to testify for the prosecution.
Two other boys accused of rock throwing on Rte. 443 [built mostly on Palestinian territory, but may be used almost exclusively by Israeli drivers only] received 3.5 months incarceration, as part of a plea bargain:
Ahmad Muhammad Hader Suleiman, ID 860003961 - Case No. 3958/10
Maed Rashdi Ahmed Othman - ID 8600073204 - Case No. 3960/10
Judge: Major Zvi Heilbron
Defense: Nery Ramati
Muhammad Ahmed Dib Nafa, ID 853930337 - Case No. 4570/10, age 20, resident of Bil'in, charged with throwing rocks (during a demonstration against the Separation Wall). He was incriminated by A., who has incriminated many before him.
The defendant does not admit the charges.
The next evidentiary hearing is set for 3.1.11.
Read Amira Hass's article about incriminator A. in: