02 February 2018
GICJ called upon the High Commissioner to put pressure on the Israeli government to release Ahed Tamimi and all other Palestinian child prisoners detained unlawfully or arbitrarily
For a simple yet meaningful act of defiance against the Israeli occupation, then 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, known for her courageous activism in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, was arrested. The girl was detained in an overnight raid on her home by the Israeli army and border police on 19 December 2017. The girl remains in military custody, while having been transferred between different Israeli prisons. She has been indicted on 12 charges, including alleged assault, “incitement” and past instances of stone-throwing, for which she might face up to 10 years in prison. While Ahed’s next hearing took place on her 17th birthday, on 31 January 2018, it is unclear how long her trials will last. In view of Israel’s discriminatory legal system, however, it is highly likely that Ahed will be sentenced and imprisoned over the charges. In view of Ahed’s continued detention that fails to comply with international law, Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) submitted an urgent appeal to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to demand her release.
GICJ called upon the High Commissioner to put pressure on the Israeli government to release Ahed Tamimi and all other Palestinian child prisoners detained unlawfully or arbitrarily. It appealed to Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to demand Israel to comply with its international obligations, notably by refraining from arresting children save as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. Furthermore, GICJ asked the High Commissioner to support the efforts by several Member States to introduce necessary measures to hold Israel accountable and ensure its compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law. Finally, GICJ requested the High Commissioner to do all that is in his mandate to ensure the protection of the Palestinian people.
Ahed’s family is well-known for their leading role in the nonviolent resistance movement against the Israeli occupation in their home village of Nabi Saleh, in which military control is an aspect of everyday life for Palestinians. The “crime” on the basis of which Ahed is being charged is standing up to a brutal and racist military occupation and the entailed human rights violations.
Background of the Nighttime Arrest
Ahed Tamimi and her family were sound asleep when suddenly loud bangs and screams at their front door woke them up at around 3 am. When Ahed’s father opened the door, at least 30 Israeli soldiers pushed him aside and stormed into the house. They forcibly moved the family into a room as they were searching their household contents, throwing belongings onto the ground and leaving the home in havoc. The family was then informed that Ahed was being arrested, without being provided with reasons. Ahed was handcuffed and led outside by the soldiers, who pushed her into an army jeep.
A day earlier on 18 December 2017, clashes had broken out in the village of Nabi Saleh, with Israeli forces shooting tear gas at homes. Ahed’s family home was also targeted and as the soldiers had fired tear-gas canisters at their house and broken windows, Ahed confronted the men in military uniform in an attempt to make them leave and prevent them from hurting another member of her family. A few hours earlier, Ahed’s 15-year-old cousin Mohammad had been struck point-blank in the face with a rubber bullet by Israeli forces, which left him severely wounded. The boy was placed in a medically induced coma as doctors conducted a surgery to remove the bullet fragments from his skull. He only awoke 72 hours later.
Confronting the soldiers unlawfully occupying their backyard, Ahed and her 20-year-old cousin Nour pushed and punched them, which was recorded in a video that would later go viral. On basis of the incident, Israeli authorities later accused her of “assaulting” a soldier and an officer. Instead of attempting to justify the persecution of a young girl seeking to protect her family, Israeli occupation forces should not have been in Nabi Saleh in the first place. As pointed out by Alistair Burt, minister of state for the Middle East at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office: “The truth is that the soldiers should not be there and the young woman should not have needed to do what she did”.
Shortly after her daughters arrest, Nariman Tamimi travelled to the Binyamin detention center to observe her condition and to insist on being present during interrogation. However, Nariman was arrested upon arrival on the basis of “incitement” for filming the aforementioned incident. Ahed’s cousin Nour, charged with allegedly assaulting a soldier and interfering with their duties, was also arrested shortly after but has later been released on bail.
Side by side: Ahed and her mother Nariman Tamimi [Photo by Aljazeera]
The Activist Ahed and the Tamimi Family
Ahed Tamimi rose to international prominence through the dissemination of footage capturing her desperate attempt to save her small brother Mohammad from the grips of an Israeli soldier in 2015, when she was only 14 years old. After the release of the video, Ahed had to begin fearing for her life. Extremist Israelis started threatening her on social media, demanding the arrest and even killing of the girl. She became afraid of leaving her home and her family lived in constant fear that soldiers or settlers might do her harm. To avoid the danger posed by military checkpoints when going to school, she moved to her cousin’s home in Ramallah.
The young girl already has a significant history of standing up against the injustice faced by her community. With illegal settlements encroaching on the village’s land and robbing its inhabitants off vital resources, Ahed has been courageously participating in protests and has had to endure personal sacrifice, losing an uncle and a cousin to the occupation. In the first week of January 2018, Ahed’s distant cousin Musaab al-Tamimi was lethally shot by Israeli forces. Her parents and brother have spent a lot of time in jail and her mother has been shot in the leg. “Our thoughts are caged by the occupation”, Ahed told Aljazeera. “The Israelis first control our dreams, and then they break them.”
11-year-old Ahed cries during the funeral of her relative Rushdi Tamimi, killed by Israeli forces during a protest in November 2012 [Reuters/Mohamad Torokman]
The Tamimi family is well-known for leading the weekly protests in their village of Nabi Saleh as part of the village’s nonviolent resistance movement for nearly a decade. Only a few months after the first protests in 2010, Israeli authorities issued demolition orders on the family home – in an effort to stifle their activism. Since then, their home has been raided over 150 times. Meanwhile, the entire family is being persecuted, with countless family members having been incarcerated repeatedly. Ahed’s father Bassem has been designated as prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, due to numerous stays in Israeli prisons. The mother Nariman has been arrested five times for participating in protests and Waed twice. Manal Tamimi, another member of the activist family, was temporarily detained during a demonstration on 28 December 2017 demanding the release of relatives outside the Ofer detention centre. She vowed that “nothing will stop [them] from demanding [their] rights.”
Ahed with her parents Bassem and Nariman Tamimi [Aljazeera].
Under the pretext of the entire Tamimi family being implicated in acts of “violence and incitement of terrorism”, the Israeli authorities have imposed punitive measures on the family, inter alia, by revoking entry visas for 20 family members.
The Village of Nabi Saleh
The village of Nabi Saleh has born witness to settler-colonialism since 1977, when the illegal Halamish settlement was established on its land. Since then, hundreds of dunams of the village’s lands have been confiscated, its water spring appropriated, and its olive trees burned by settlers. Exemplifying the apartheid system reigning in the region, the village receives only 12 hours of running water per week, whereas the Halamish settlement is provided with running water 24 hours a day.
Tear gas canisters fired in the village have been collected by residents of Nabi Saleh [Aljazeera].
The villagers experience raids by Israeli forces on an almost daily basis, attacking their water tanks and deluging their homes with foul-smelling skunk spray. Vast lands of Nabi Saleh are located in Area C, which is under full Israeli control and where a discriminatory zoning regime restricts Palestinian construction. More than a dozen homes in the village have demolition orders and are thus subject to destruction at any moment. “It’s a silent ethnic cleansing”, Bassem explained to Aljazeera.
Each Friday, the villagers of Nabi Saleh would flock into the streets to hold nonviolent protests against the occupation. However, Israeli forces would meet the demonstrators – children, women and men – with excessive use of force. Almost every week, a villager would get injured. To circumvent the predictability of weekly protests, Nabi Saleh residents are now organizing marches at random times to prevent soldiers from dispersing them.
Nabi Saleh has become a symbol of Palestinian nonviolent resistance over the years. As a result, Israeli authorities are imposing draconian measures in an attempt to dissuade other villages from adopting similar strategies. Children and women of the village and the Tamimi family have been arrested, maimed and killed. Yet, the villagers are steadfast in their fight against injustice and will continue their resistance for as long as Palestinians are oppressed.
“Everyone is a Target”: Collective Punishment in Nabi Saleh
Everyone in Ahed’s home village – its children, women and men – is submitted to collective punishment by Israeli forces. Particularly targeting the young residents of Ahed’s home village, Israeli forces have been stopping children at the checkpoint erected at the entrance of the village to interrogate them for hours – in an effort to intimidate them and break their spirit. On 18 December 2017, 15-year-old Ahmad Tamimi was arrested in his school in a nearby village and detained overnight. Several other children have also been detained or injured, leaving everyone in fear that they may be the next targets.
Night raids have become the norm in Nabi Saleh – as in many other villages and cities in Palestine. Night raids gravely affect Palestinian children, many of whom suffer from insomnia, bed-wetting, and nightmares. Such gruesome policies buttress Israeli domination over Palestine, leaving many of its youngest in abject fear and hopelessness.
Unjust Justice System
Israel’s justice system is devoid of justice for Palestinians. Its dual legal system and courts apply discriminatory standards of evidence and procedure to Palestinians, which implicate severe, disproportionate and often baseless penalties while Jewish Israeli perpetrators are ordinarily endowed with impunity. Whilst Ahed has to confront an Israeli military court, the Israeli settlers living in the adjacent Halamish settlement are tried in Israeli civilian courts.
The girl’s case therefore illustrates the divergence in legal realities between settler youth and Palestinian youth, on the sole basis of their nationality. Whereas the conviction rate of Palestinians amounts to almost 100 percent in Israeli military courts, complaints filed by Palestinians only results in conviction of Israeli perpetrators in 1.9 percent of cases. For instance, settlers who threaten, beat, assault, and throw rocks at Palestinians, at human rights activists or even at Israeli police never face jail time. If they face any charges at all, they have to conduct community service or pay a fine.
Palestinian children are the first victims of this discriminatory justice system – with severe implications for their long-term development and wellbeing. The system indeed seems to be set up to perpetuate Israeli control over Palestinians, to deprive them of a childhood and life in dignity and freedom. Thus, it would come to no surprise to Ahed’s family if the girl was sentenced to years in prison.
Israel has failed to establish a separate juvenile justice system to try accused Palestinian children and continues to subject them to the same arrest, interrogation, and trial and imprisonment procedures as adults, often transferring them into Israeli prisons. Israel has taken no steps to improve the treatment of child detainees. Palestinian children, sometimes as young as 8 years old, are prosecuted under the Israeli Military Court system in contradiction to international standards. On 3 August 2016, the Israeli Knesset adopted the Youth Bill, officially providing for the imprisonment of Palestinian children as young as 12 years if convicted of “terrorism” against Israeli civilians or military personnel.
|In contravention to CRC, an estimated number of 500-700 Palestinian children are arrested each year (A/69/355). Palestinian children are typically detained for six to nine months on charges of stone-throwing, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The recent wave of protests has been marked by a significant increase in children being subjected to Israeli military detention. Around 350 child prisoners are currently in Israeli detention. Since 2000, at least 8,000 Palestinian children have been incarcerated and persecuted in military courts.|
No Place for Children: Conditions of Imprisonment
Routinely arrested by Israeli soldiers in their homes in the middle of the night, children are blindfolded and hands bound, and forcibly taken to unknown destinations – Israeli prisons or West Bank settlements – for interrogations, which proceed without the presence of the child’s lawyer or parents or without formal recordings. In violation of international law, Ahed Tamimi is held in an Israeli jail. The transfer of Palestinian child detainees into Israel, which proceeds in 60 percent of cases, is a grave breach of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring prisoners outside of the occupied territory. Ahed has already been moved between different prisons, which can leave severe physical and emotional scars on children.
Palestinian children are systematically prosecuted in military courts that lack fundamental fair trial standards and protections and suffer from deplorable conditions in Israeli detention facilities. Children are often held in solitary confinement, sometimes for prolonged periods, and are denied family visits. Bassem Tamimi cannot visit his daughter and wife in jail as he is denied the required permit. During arrest and interrogation, they are systematically subjected to physical and verbal violence and humiliation, including painful sacking and hooding; threats of death, violence, and sexual assault against themselves or family members; and denial food and water. Many Palestinian children undergo interrogation while sleep deprived and injured, and have to sign documents written in Hebrew, a language they rarely understand. According to Amnesty International, Ahed has suffered aggressive interrogations, sometimes at night, whilst her family has been threatened.
The ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system is widespread and systematic and in grave violation of international law, which protects all children against ill-treatment in the context of law enforcement, military and judicial institutions. From a sample of 520 Palestinian children detained between 2012 and 2016, 72 percent reportedly faced physical violence and 66 percent were submitted to verbal abuse and humiliation.
Collective Defiance and Excessive Force
On Saturday, 13 January 2018, hundreds of Palestinians from various villages in the occupied West Bank assembled in Nabi Saleh to protest against the detention of Ahed and her mother, as well as against the US administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. As the demonstrators were marching along the illegal Halamish settlement and an Israeli checkpoint and military tower, Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them, causing gas inhalation and injuring at least seven protestors.
Among the demonstrators was Janna Jihad, Ahed’s 11-year old cousin known as the youngest journalist in Palestine. She told Aljazeera that she misses her best friend Ahed and that Israel’s attacks on children in Nabi Saleh was intended to “break young Palestinians”, who she sees as constituting the next generation seeking to liberate Palestine.
|According to UNOCHA, at least 345 Palestinian children were injured by the Israeli military last December. In 2016, at least 32 Palestinian children were killed by “the most moral army” in the world.|
Conclusion: Cloak of Terror
Denigrating unarmed Palestinians like Ahed – who seek to protect their families’ and community’s human dignity and rights – as terrorists is inscrutable and agonizing. It is also a deep distortion of reality whose only purpose is to conceal state-sanctioned terror targeting a defenseless civilian population. Overt violence such as unlawful arrests, police brutality and air strikes, in conjunction with silent assaults on basic rights such as access to natural resources and healthcare, are persistent forms of terror targeting Palestinians. Yet, once Palestinians walk in the streets to demand an end to deep injustices, they are portrayed as security threats – lending authorization to persecution, incarceration and torture of the victimized population.
Ahed Tamimi, like many other Palestinian juveniles, has been incarcerated for being vocal in the face of an unjust system. The arrest, however, also uncovers the fear by the occupying authorities of the power personified by this young courageous girl, whose simple act of defiance and steadfastness threaten to unveil the ugly layers of an oppressive system.
Ahed’s activism, like that of uncountable other Palestinians living in occupied Palestine, in Israel and in the diaspora, reveal the malice of power and of state violence and should remind the international community that “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws” (Martin Luther King Jr.) and to combat them – in the service of greater humanity for all.
Urgent Appeals on Palestine by GICJ:
GICJ Activities on the Human Rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories
GICJ Urgent Appeals on Palestine:
- GICJ - Punishing people for the misdeeds of others clearly violates international law - July 2014
- A match in the powder keg: The occupying force continues to contravene international law - April 2014
- GICJ – Urgent Appeal on the Forcible eviction of Ein Hijleh - February 2014
- UN press release on behalf of Issa Amro - September 2013
- GICJ –Urgent appeal following arbitrary arrest of Sireen Khudiri - June 2013
- GICJ – Follow-up appeal on behalf of HR defender - June 2013
- GICJ - Follow-up appeal on the case of Mr. Issa Amro - April 2013
- GICJ - Urgent Appeal to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders - March 2013
- GICJ – Urgent Appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 - February 2013
GICJ Side-Events and oral statements on Palestine:
Human Rights Council - 30th regular session (14 September - 2 October 2015)
Human Rights Council - 29th regular session (15 June - 3 July 2015)
Human Rights Council - 21st special session on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (23 July 2014)
Human Rights Council - 26th regular session (10 - 27 June 2014):
Human Rights Council - 25th regular session (3 - 28 March 2014):
Human Rights Council - 24th regular session (9 - 27 September 2013):
- Side-event: Human Rights in Palestine - Palestinian Refugees in Diaspora and their Right of Return, Where to?
- Side-event: Human Rights in Middle East - Give Peace a chance
- Democracy and the Right to self-determination
- GICJ statements on Palestine
Human Rights Council - 23rd regular session (27 May - 14 June 2013):