Israeli Professionals protest repercussions of the arrest procedures of Palestinian children

On May 20th 2012, more than 130 Israeli mental health and other professionals sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defence Ehud Barak with their concerns about the social and mental repercussions of standard arrest procedures on arrested Palestinian children, their families, and on the Israeli and Palestinian society. Copies of the letter were sent to other officials in the Israeli Government.

To the original letter (in Hebrew) and list of signatures

Translation of the letter to English:

15 May 2012

The Prime Minister and Minister of Health – Mr. Binyamin Netanyahu
The Minister of Defence – Mr. Ehud Barak

Re: The social and mental repercussions of the arrest procedures of Palestinian children and adolescents and a suspected violation of children’s rights

We, the undersigned, are Mental Health professionals working in the fieldsof medicine, psychotherapy and education. As researchers, lecturers and clinicians who are daily engaged with the wellbeing of children, with their health and their social rights, we are writing this letter as an urgent warning about the immediate and long term damage we have reason to believe is being caused to Palestinian minors by the manner in which the Israel Security Forces carry out these arrests and the conditions under which they are held and interrogated.

In the growing number of detailed testimonies collected by DCI- Palestine,  Betzelem, Physicians for Human Rights,The Center forthe Defence of the Individual, No Legal Frontiers and The Public Committee against Torture in Israel we have read testimony accounts of child arrests carried out in the middle of the night;  of violence used during the arrests and in the course of their transfer to interrogations; of interrogations that are carried out while the children are held incommunicado with no access to their attorneys, family members or other protective adults; of interrogators who are not trained  child interrogators; of confessions obtained under duress, and more.  Each of these experiences on its own is capable of causing deleterious and long-lasting effects on the mental health of any young child or adolescent who has to undergo it. Therefore, we are extremely concerned about the possible damaging effects of such risk factors, if the reports are verified, not only on the direct victims also on their familial and social environments.

We would like to stress that we are particularly concerned about recent reports of arrests involving solitary confinement. The dangerous effects of solitary confinement and stimulus deprivation have been well documented and well established in regard to adult detainees. For minors whose psychological and physiological development is still in its most active and formative stages the detrimental effects are naturally much worse. There are strong reasons why the international human rights committees regard solitary confinement as a form of torture. An intermediary report published in August 2011 by U.N. workers investigating the matter  stated that the physiological and psychological effects of detention under solitary confinement include panic attacks; fears of death; clinical depression; social regression, feelings of loss of hope; outbursts of anger; reduced attention span; disorientation; paranoia; psychotic episodes; self mutilation and suicide attempts. Because of the gravity of these findings the report, which was presented to the UN General Assembly in October 2011, called for a total prohibition on holding minors in solitary confinement.

The way Israeli society and Israeli authorities and institutions uphold children’s rights and work to maintain the child’s well being on a high and ethical level is deeply appreciated by us. In the case of those Palestinian children for whom the 1970 law for minors (regarding their sentencing, their punishment, and the way to treat them during their arrest and detainment) does not apply, these high standards are no longer guaranteed by Israeli laws and customs. Thus, the behaviours described in the testimonies appear to constitute a anomalous and serious breach of children’s rights as they are defined in The UN Convention onthe Rightsof the Child (1989). Furthermore, as mental health professionals we are concerned for the detainees’ psychological condition, and alarmed by the long term repercussions of such treatment for minors, as described above. Damage to children’s sense of self-worth, sense of capability, hope and self-confidence also damages the future generation. We fear that these deleterious elements are not only endangering those Palestinian minors who are directly involved, but that they also weaken the possibility for a future of common existence, based on social wellbeing , respect and humane relations for both societies.

We maintain that this issue must be urgently addressed and investigated by an external, objective, critical and professional body. Furthermore, if the reports on solitary confinement and other violations of children’s rights are verified we maintain that these practices must be immediately stopped and rectified, in order to ensure that the clear and serious, immediate and long term injuries to children and youth be avoided, for the sake of Israelis and Palestinians alike.

The President ofIsrael-   Mr. Shimeon Peres
The Deputy Prime Minister – Mr. Dan Meridor
The Minister of Internal Security – Mr. Isaac Aharonovitch
The Minister of Justice – Mr. Yaacov Neeman
The Minister of Education – Mr. Gideon Saar
The Minister of Health – Mr. Yaacov Litzman
The State Comptroller – Mr. Micha Lindenstrauss
The Attorney General – Mr. Yehuda Weinstein

To the original letter (in Hebrew) and list of signatures