RAMALLAH, January 22, 2015 (WAFA) – Shackled and in tears, 14-year-old Malak al-Khatib from the village of Beitin, in the Ramallah district, was taken from the Israeli military court Ofer to begin serving her two months sentence in prison and for alleged rock throwing and the possession of a knife.
After being detained for 23 days, Malak was sentenced to two months in prison and a fine of 6000 shekels ($1523), even though she had hopes of being released to reunite with her family who has been living in distress ever since Malak was detained on December 31, 2014.
Ali al-Khatib, Malak’s father, told WAFA earlier that his daughter was detained allegedly under the pretext of throwing stones at Israeli soldiers at the bypass road near her school, which he denied that could have happened.
He said, “She was leaving school after attending her last exam for the first semester when all of a sudden soldiers jumped at her, handcuffed her hands and took her with them.”
A military decision was supposed to be made on January 4th, however the court postponed her hearing to January 11.
Malak’s father, Ali told media, “We hoped that she would be released in yesterday’s session. We were so optimistic, but the judge’s decision shocked us. Malak suddenly broke down and started crying.”
He recalled the day of Malak’s arrest and says, “When I went to the detention center to see Malak, thinking a misunderstanding must have took place, soldiers told me “she is not a child, she scared us and threatened the life of a soldier.”
Malak’s detention was extended several times and she spent around 23 days awaiting her ruling. At the time, the lawyer defending her was trying to reduce the fine, Malak’s father earlier told WAFA.
She is now serving her sentence in Hasharon detention center with another three female prisoners who are, according to her father, taking care of Malak and emotionally supporting her.
Malak is considered the youngest prisoner currently serving a sentence in Israeli jails. She is one of 7000 Palestinian children who were arrested since the start of the second Intifada in September 2000, many of whom are still serving sentences.
Lawyer Ayed Abu Qutesh told WAFA that even though the International law allows the detention of minors, it should be always the last decision that any court or state takes. All concerned parties should try to find other alternatives to the detention and actual imprisonment of children, such as fines and suspended imprisonment.
Lawyer Jawad Bolous explains “the Israeli occupation’s policy of arresting minors contradicts with all international laws regarding minors. It starts at the very moment of arrest where soldiers forget that they are arresting a minor, treating the children in a very barbaric way. The minors go through detention until the ruling, while Israel ignores the grave consequences of this detention on their lives.”
Malak’s family wasn’t able to visit her at the detention center, but only saw her at the court on January 11 for the first time after her arrest. Her father said then that she looked distressed and scared. “After all she is only 14,” he explained desperately.
WAFA tried to reach Malak’s father once again to learn more about the condition of Malak now that she is serving the sentence, but he remained out of reach.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education condemned in a press release the ruling, describing it as a “heinous crime”.
According to the Defense for Children International Palestine (DCI-Palestine), “Israel is the only state to automatically and systematically prosecute children in military courts that lack basic standards of due process.”
It said in a report on the arrest of minors by Israel that “Around 500 – 700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12, are arrested, detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military detention system each year. The majority of Palestinian child detainees are charged with throwing stones.’
While Palestinian children endure such conduct, no Israeli children come into contact with the military court system, proving the amount of discrimination in the Israeli system.
A UNICEF report concluded that ill treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appeared to be ‘widespread, systematic and institutionalized’.
“On average 700 Palestinian children a year, appear before Israel’s military court,” said the United Nations.
The UN said about 726,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been through the court since the occupation of the Palestinian Territories, in 1967.
A testimony of a child identified as Z.Q., who was detained by Israeli soldiers, published in a Military Court Watch report, says “I was dragged downstairs and I banged my head against the front door, because I was blindfolded and the soldiers were careless. I was in shock and pain. The impact of the bang was so hard I bled.”
According to the report, children detainees are treated harshly in most cases. It mentioned measures such as binding hands and eyes, signing documents in Hebrew, physical and verbal abuse, night arrests, threats, strip searches and solitary confinement to name a few.
Local and international media outlets reported on Israel’s cabinet’s decision to back a law change allowing harsher sentences of up to 20 years for stone throwers after the recent tensions in Jerusalem’s Old City.