A Better Use for Cable Ties

This post  might make you sad or angry. I'll keep it short, because while I think it is important to share about, I don't like feeling sad and you probably don't either.Two weeks ago,  on June 12, Thomas and I  went to a lecture by Gerard Horton, a lawyer for Defense of Children International. The lecture was about Palestinian children held in military detention. It was the first time here that I'd actually been faced with this much information related to the ongoing conflict happening here. A note about Gerard. He was a British man, and his presentation was straightforward and dispassionate, which I think is the best way to be when speaking about such a political issue. He gave us the facts. The Q&A came afterward, and then we heard the passion, anger, and frustration in the crowd.

He and the organization he works with, DCI-Palestine, http://www.dci-palestine.org/  completed a four year long study of the way Palestinian children are treated when they are detained by the Israeli military. [Background info: Since 1967, Palestinians in the West Bank have been prosecuted  in Israeli military courts.]

Although the report is 142 pages to hold  the data collected from collecting the testimonies of 311 children, Gerard distilled the information down the most important point, which is that the evidence shows a pattern of inhuman treatment of minors as defined in the UN Convention against Torture.

The number one detail that strikes me when reading the report is the brutal use of cable ties to hold the children's wrists together behind their backs. It was the number one complaint of detained children, present in 95% of cases.

One child said "Soldiers tied my hands behind my back with one plastic cord and tightened it so hard that I still feel pain in my right thumb which sometimes goes numb."

A better use for cable ties might be to hold cables in place, as illustrated in this picture I took in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem:

There are many other issues of concern. Just a few of them:
  • Child is blindfolded (90% of cases)
  • Physical violence (75% of cases)
  • Arrested between midnight and 5 am (60% of cases)

Often the children are woken up from sleep by soldiers in their rooms pointing guns at them.

Gerard gave us a copy of the report. There's a lot of information in there, but the positive part that would improve the situation are four major recommendations DCI lawyers make that would "provide a series of simple and practical protective measures."

  • An end to night time arrests.
  • Children have access to a lawyer prior to questioning.
  • All interogations be audio-visually recorded.
  • Every child to be accompanied by a parent.

After the lecture and a short video, a man stood to ask the first question. He spoke in Arabic for about ten minutes. I was so bewildered that I almost left. I can't imagine a moderator at a U.S. lecture letting a question become a speech. Finally someone handed me a headset so I could hear the translation into English, which was happening simultaneously. It turns out that he'd been detained in the same prisons shown in the presentation and he was telling his story.

Others, both English and Arabic speaking, spoke with similar passion. "Why isn't the International community doing anything about the occupation? Why isn't United States doing anything?"