UN special rapporteur on torture to address Nabi Saleh trial

14 year-old Islam Tamimi was arrested on January 23 by a large group of soldiers who stormed his family’s home in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh in the middle of the night. He was taken from his bed at gunpoint, beaten up by the soldiers who arrested him and denied sleep. His arrest, only a week after a previous military night time raid on his house, is in line with a common Israeli tactic of callously arresting minors in order to use their confessions against many others in the quest to suppress unarmed anti-occupation demonstrations.

This Sunday, Islam’s trial will hear the testimony of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture regarding the arrest of minors in Israeli military courts. In addition to the testimony of the special rapporteur, defense witnesses will also include Adv. Lymor Goldstine on the denial of legal counsel, a psychiatrist’s expert opinion on the psychological effects of such arrests, as well as the testimony of the 14 year-old himself.

Despite being a minor, Tamimi was questioned by the Israeli police the following morning for nearly five hours, without being allowed sleep since his arrest. He was denied his right to legal counsel even while his lawyer was present at the police station, as well as his right to have a parent present during his questioning.

Tamimi’s defence has moved to have Tamimi’s confession inadmissible since it was proved that he was not informed of his right to remain silent, and even told that “It would be best to tell the truth” by his interrogators. It was also acknowledged that only one of his four interrogators was qualified as a youth interrogator.

Due to the fundamental flaws in Tamimi interrogation, the court did order his release from custody on April 4th. Despite no longer being behind bars, the military prosecution refuses to drop the charges against him, apparently because his confession is used as the main evidence in the trials of many others from Nabi Saleh.

During his interrogation, Tamimi confessed to having thrown stones at Israeli soldiers in course of weekly demonstrations against settlement expansion in Nabi Saleh. He also implicated many others in committing similar offenses. Among those incriminated by his confession are the Popular Committee organizers Bassem Tamimi and Naji Tamimi. Tamimi told his interrogators a fictitious story alleging that the two organized groups of youth into “brigades”, each with its own responsibility during the demonstrations: some have allegedly been in charge of stone-throwing, some of blocking roads, others of distracting the army and so on. The two have been arrested and indicted mostly based on his statement, and are currently awaiting trial.

The expert testimony of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture will most likely have little role in the outcome of Islam’s trial. The systematic minors arrests in Nabi Saleh reflect the fact that violence from the military has not stopped the unarmed demonstrations. Tear gas in great quantity is used every week, live ammunition is fired, rubber coated steel bullets are aimed but nothing so farh as ended the unarmed demonstrations. Israeli soldiers have even shot 10 year old children with rubber bullets as they were standing on the front porches of their homes and the violence has not broken the unarmed resistance model. Israel is now using the military court system to end the demonstrations.

This model of using the military courts was perfected in the villages of Ni’ilin and Bil’in, where children were arrested under similar circumstances as Islam Tamimi and their testimonies were successfully used against the Popular Committee leaders. Despite major setbacks in the incarceration of the Popular Committee leaders, the demonstrations have continued and even have grown stronger in the village of Bil’in. The arrest of children by the Israeli army is a sign of desperation to contain unarmed and largely nonviolent resistance.