The Learning Experience of Rakan
Palestinian Political Prisoners We Do Not Hear About : the Children and the
US Ambassador to UN John Negroponte who "speaks five languages and knows when to be silent" about Human Rights issues in the Occupied Territories.
Nothing much has changed for the Palestinian child who lives in the Occupied Territories, except perhaps the greater chance of either losing your home or becoming a dreadful statistic. If you are a Palestinian teen, you do not have to assert yourself in order to be treated like an adult. Palestinian teenagers and even smaller children, are almost always treated like adults by the Israeli Defense Forces. The sad truth is some children have as many equal opportunities to get shot and killed, as an adult civilian.
Children and adolescents are arrested just like adults and when taken off to Israeli military prisons, are held just like adults. Massive retaliations almost always include Palestinian youths. While it is quite true that in the Occupied Territories, children and teenagers throw rocks and molotov cocktails at the Israeli soldiers, it is also quite true that the Israeli soldiers shoot with horrible bullets and kill them and/or drag them off to prisons; often times without any formal charges. The IDF does not discriminate between children and adults and weaponry used by a child, because in theory, it appears that all Palestinian children are assumed born into terrorism and are treated as such.
Before asserting that these are individual children with real faces and real feelings, I must continue to make a few generalizations, just as the IDF makes generalizations about young Palestinians. The difference is: my generalizations do not produce bruises and trauma. I understand the threat of suicide bombers. I have experienced loss from terrorist attacks. The strong motivation I have in speaking out for the better changes needed in a civil society, is with consideration of stopping the endless cycles of violence. It is a moral obligation to treat all children respectfully; but there are those in Israel who need further understanding that experience of brutality directly influences a child's psychology and direction. What can Israel possibly hope to gain by routinely traumatizing this generation of Palestinian youth in name of security or peaceful solution?
If you are a Palestinian teen, an arrest campaign in one particular geographical location will certainly include you. Palestinian boys are herded along with adult males to detentions. Young men (and young women) ages 12 thru 18 are placed in some of the worse prison situations confining them with adults; including militant political prisoners and hard core criminals. While there are non-violent Palestinians who have been jailed for protest, there is no guarantee that a child will be placed next to a non-violent adult in prison.
Israeli Military prisons are a horror for children and the people who care about them. The children come from families that can do little but mourn their disappearance. Without the adults who love and protect them and after a child is further frightened physically or psychologically or both, will that child be more willing to sign a confession? There are many adults who would not hesitate to sign anything in order to stop being tortured and abused. Are Palestinian children expected to hold onto their truths while being deprived of bathroom or sleep? Or placed in positional tortures (shabeh)? Is there surprise when a wretched person, either child or adult, hopes to end their wretchedness? And after a child's initiation into psychological and physical abuse, does fear of a sexual assault take on an even greater motivation for signing a confession?
Such questions appear to need asking about children's rights in Israeli military prisons.
With little regard for legalities, or for the general cry of outrage that comes from many human rights groups (including Israeli human rights groups), DCI reports that in the name of "security", Israel continues to inflict harm upon the future of Palestine:
"It has been known for 15 years, that Israel has legalized what most human rights groups and United Nations expert bodies including the Committee Against Torture and the Human Rights Committee consider to be torture. Countless affidavits from victims and reports from monitoring groups, as well as admissions of state officials confirm the systematic and routine torture by Israeli state functionaries including State and General Security Service agents. During these 15 years, Israel gained international attention for being the only country that legalized torture" (see: http://www.dci-pal.org/, Fact Sheet Series: Torture of Child Political Detainees)
In 1999, after much pressure from human rights groups and decent population in Israel proper, the Israeli Supreme Court, ruled that certain torture was illegal. The ruling said that General Security Service Agents do NOT have the right to shake a man and hold him in an uncomfortable position (shabeh) and/or deprive him of basic human functions, such as sleep. However, after 1999 and with legal censure, Palestinian children are still routinely subjected to beatings, sleep deprivations, isolation, verbal abuse, tying of hands and blindfolding.
Despite losing lawyer Daoud Dirawi, an important member of the DCI team, to the illegal administrative detention that he has been enduring since last February 21, 2003, DCI continues to make investigations into the treatment of juveniles who are deemed political prisoners. Another lawyer is currently investigating a case that involves the psychological and physical torture of a Palestinian boy-child, who has tried more than once to kill himself in prison. Defence of Children International has received previous reports of threatened sexual abuse, usually pronounced during the extraction of a confession during interrogations. Threat of such a thing is a vile act by itself but now allegedly there has been an actual incident, which took place in Ofer Military Prison just outside of Ramallah.
A boy of 12 years exists, who claims to have been touched in a wrongful way and who, since then, has been so traumatized by his imprisonment that he has been hospitalized while attempting to end his life by drinking cleanser. Defence of Children International is gravely concerned for this child's safety and well being:
This real and very frightened child is Rakan.
Rakan was taken at a checkpoint in Sawahreh village, close to Qeda settlement while traveling from Bethlehem to Jericho. He was taken by Israeli soldiers to the police station inside Ma'ale Adumim settlement and was there threatened with electric shock. He was kept in a solitary 2m2 cell for 13 days, after which came his first suicide attempt just before he was taken to Ofer Military Prison Camp.
He made this testimony to one of the DCI lawyers and here is his affidavit:
"And because there was no one I could talk to and I felt incredible frightened and scared I tried to commit suicide while being in solitary confinement. On October 12th I was moved to Ofer military prison camp. When I arrived the soldiers asked me to take off my clothes and I was standing in my underwear. Then one of the soldiers took off even my underwear and started to use the metal detector on my naked body. While he was doing that he used his other hand to touch my body concentrating mainly on my back and bottom. This continued for a while and I was crying being terrified that something would happen.
Shortly after that incident, he drank cleanser and was taken to Hadassa Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem. While he was in the hospital he saw a psychiatrist who recommended his immediate release or, his being taken to a better-controlled facility. Rakan was taken to court and the judge looked at his record, including his recent history and (military) charges that accused him of being a militant Hamas member. The civil judge decided immediately that Rakan should be sent to a facility better suited for children and he set a trial date. The military prison did NOT respect the Judge and the trial date he gave. Nor did they respect the DCI lawyer who tried ardently to have this child released on bail. Another trial date was set.
DCI continues to respond on behalf of Rakan and has sited International Laws:
Violation of International Law
Regarding the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:
Art. 37 (a) states that "no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."
Art. 37 (b) states that "the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time."
Art. 19 states that "States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child."
Real justice demands that those who have violated this child be brought to justice.
No one discredits the grave concerns that all people feel about terror, but why must it be taught so ardently in another form?
The DCI lawyer involved in this case, reported that the he tried his best to give the latest Judge an understanding of the immediate and grave situation. He was rudely dismissed and told sarcastically that "since it was Ramadan" to go home and come back next week. Defence of Children International is not unfamiliar with this kind of rude and ethnic bias. Do you suppose Alan Dershowitz would be treated in such a way? Since I am recently tempted to challenge Mr. Dershowitz to a true perspective on the legal rights and existence of Arab-Israelis and Palestinians, this would perhaps be an ideal opportunity for him to observe Israeli military justice, as well.
The DCI lawyer will try again at the next trial date to have this child either released, or properly held. In the meantime, a 12 year old boy already made desperate and wretched awaits his justice in the same situation that compelled him to drink cleanser. Defence of Children International asks that citizens of the world take interest and action on behalf of the human and humane rights of hundreds of children locked away in Israeli prisons:
"Over the course of 2002, draconian laws were used with greater frequency against children, including Administrative Detention orders which allow for detention without published evidence and military order 1500, which means that children can be detained for up to 12 days (previously 18) without a court appearance or legal consultation. In 2003, these military orders continue to be invoked against children, with around 400 arrests to end-September.
When children are arrested they are usually taken to adult military detention centers and interrogation centers. There are no specialist juvenile facilities; courts or personnel within the Israeli system apart from Telmond prison which houses around 70 of 350 child prisoners. Frequently, we hear of cases where children are forced to sign confessions, where they are beaten and handcuffed, or subjected to positional abuse, or shabeh. Meanwhile, children deprived of their liberty are often denied access to healthcare and education, adequate nutrition, hygiene and recreation time. Family visits are a rare privilege due to travel restrictions on the Palestinian population and frequent detention within Israeli military bases or settlements. Not surprisingly, psychosocial studies indicate that the impact of imprisonment and the horrific experiences suffered by child prisoners has a significant impact on their future development as individuals. " ( http://www.dci-pal.org/prisonweb/)
We must all learn to speak out on behalf of children. Children are our direct and indirect investment in the future. How we treat children and how we administer justice to them reflects our standards and what is
expected of them.
The first time I went to the UN with that purpose in mind, I was grievous shocked to discover a truth of the matter:
When I was a child, I was taught to believe in the righteousness of my country's participation in such an organization as the United Nations. I believed that with regards to the tenets of freedom and human rights, the United States' role, as "Superpower" was one of Champion. My first day at the UN and subsequent visits, I was told again and again, there is ONLY... ONE..... COUNTRY with BIG enough VETO POWER to STOP and HALT such investigations into human rights issues in the Occupied Territories and that country was my own USA!
After reviewing my Ambassador John Negroponte's dismal record over such vetoes and after considering his significant role in Honduras and the Nicaraguan Contra War, I must wonder if anyone at the UN suppressed himself or herself in politeness from mocking my shocked naiveté of the situation. *
Why would we not want to do everything that we possibly can to bring forth truth about what goes on in the Occupied Territories?
If Israel has nothing to hide while accepting US Foreign Aid, why isn't an investigation welcomed?
And if there is something to hide, why does Israel get the cover of our Veto Power?
Are we not COMPELLED by such severe and long-standing allegations, to investigate a country that we credit and support with vast sums of tax dollar support?
Where is the accountability to the American Public?
The USA should not make hesitation any where in the world such allegations exist, but most especially, where our foreign aid might be perceived by the entire world, as rewarding such behavior.
On October 30, 2003 Walid Maalouf, Senior Adviser on Agenda Item 83: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, made this statement from the US Department of State about other promised funds:
"The United States, through its substantial financial contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency http://www.unrwa.org, has demonstrated its enduring support for humanitarian relief efforts for Palestinian refugees. In the last year, the United States committed $88 million to the regular budget, and $31 million toward the 2002 emergency appeal. We continue to be UNRWA's largest single contributor to both the regular budget and emergency appeals. We support UNRWA's mandate and believe that its programs are a force for stability in the region."
This money will not wash clean the American Conscience that demands clarification and balanced perspective.
Mary La Rosa is an artist /librarian /peace actitvist
AMBASSADOR JOHN NEGROPONTE *
United States Mission to the United Nations
*Global Concerns: Maryknoll's Global Alert (July 17, 2001) Stop Human Rights Obstructer John Negroponte
"The New York Times credits John Negroponte with 'carrying out the covert strategy of the Reagan administration to crush the Sandinista government in Nicaragua' during his tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Honduras from 1981 and 1985. He oversaw the growth of military aid to Honduras from $4 million to $77.4 million a year. In early 1984, two U.S. mercenaries, Thomas Posey and Dana Parker, contacted Negroponte, stating they wanted to supply arms to the Contra army after the U.S. Congress had banned governmental add. Documents show that Negroponte connected the two with a contact in the Honduran military. The operation was exposed nine months later, at which point the Reagan administration denied any U.S. government involvement, despite Negroponte's contact earlier that year. Other documents uncovered a scheme of Negroponte and then-Vice President George Bush to funnel Contra aid money through the Honduran government.
In addition to his work with the Nicaraguan Contra army, Negroponte helped conceal from Congress the murder, kidnapping and torture abuses of a CIA-equipped and -trained Honduran military unit, Battalion 3-16. No mention of these human rights violations ever appeared in State Department Human Rights reports for Honduras. The Baltimore Sun reports that Efrain Diaz Arrivillaga, then a delegate in the Honduran Congress and a voice of dissent, told the Sun that he complained to Negroponte on numerous occasions about the Honduran military's human rights abuses. Rick Chidester, a junior embassy official under Negroponte, reported to the Sun that he was forced to omit an exhaustive gathering of human rights violations from his 1982 State Department report. Sister Laetitia Bordes went on a fact-finding delegation to Honduras in May 1982 to investigate the whereabouts of 32 Salvadoran nuns and women of faith who fled to Honduras in 1981 after Archbishop Oscar Romero's assassination.
Negroponte claimed the embassy knew nothing, but in 1996, Negroponte's predecessor Jack Binns reported that the women had been captured, tortured, and then crammed into helicopters from which they were tossed to their deaths.
John Negroponte deliberately falsified State Department human rights reports throughout his time in Honduras. U.S. missionaries and many people of faith and conscience were murdered by the CIA-trained Honduran Battalion 3-16, which Negroponte at best overlooked and at worst oversaw. His nomination is an outrage, but sadly, it will pass through with minimal resistance unless constituents do something about it.
On August 27, 1997, CIA Inspector General Frederick P. Hitz released a 211-page classified report entitled "Selected Issues Relating to CIA Activities in Honduras in the 1980s." This report was partly declassified on October 22, 1998, in response to persistent demands by the Honduran human rights ombudsman. You can read parts of the document on the National Security Archives website. Only senators and their staff who have security clearance can read the report in its entirety. It is absolutely critical that every senator read and considers the entire report before approving Negroponte's nomination. Negroponte is highly respected in diplomatic circles as "a man who speaks five languages but knows when to keep silent." Due to his urbane temperament and broad support in the professional diplomatic field, it will be very tempting for senators to whisk his nomination through. "
* Defence of Children International-Palestine (www.dci-pal.org/), Child's Rights Documents: http://www.dci-pal.org/docs/docs.html
* Washington Report (WRMEA) Foreign Aid To Israel
AMBASSADOR JOHN NEGROPONTE *
United States Mission to the United Nations
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