UN rights experts demand release of Palestinian girl detained in Israel

Two UN rights experts expressed serious concern [press release] on Tuesday regarding the arrest and detention of Ahed Tamimi, a 17-year-old Palestinian girl who became famous for slapping an Israeli soldier during a physical confrontation.

UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territory Michael Lynk and Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez[official profiles] demanded Tamimi’s immediate release during the proceedings and called for future hearings to be held in strict accordance with international legal standards. Tamimi has been in detention in Israel since her arrest at her home in December where she was filmed physically confronting Israel soldiers at her family’s property in Nabi Salah in the Israel-occupied West Bank. The following month, Tamimi was charged with a number of offenses under Israel military law for both the December incident and for others dating back to April 2016.

An Israel Military judge, who prohibited the media from entering the courtroom and began the trial behind closed doors [Al Jazeera report], has ruled that Tamimi should remain in detention until the end of her trial and adjourned Tuesday’s hearing until early March.

Lynk reminded Israel that the The Convention on the Rights of the Child [text, PDF], which Israel has ratified, requires adherence to the policy that “children are to be deprived of their liberty only as a last resort, and only for the shortest appropriate period of time.” Lynk added:

None of the facts of this case would appear to justify her ongoing detention prior to her trial, particularly given the concerns expressed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child about the use of pre-trial detention and detention on remand. … Sadly, this is not an isolated case … Figures from Palestine show that Israel detains and prosecutes between 500 to 700 Palestinian children in military courts annually. We have received reports that these children are commonly mistreated while in detention, subjected to both physical and psychological abuse, deprived of access to lawyers or family members during interrogation, and tried under a military court system in which there are significant concerns regarding independence and impartiality, and which has a worryingly high conviction rate.

Particularly noting Tamimi’s arrest in the middle of the night by well-armed soldiers and her subsequent questioning by Israeli security officials without a lawyer or family members present, Lynk and José Guevara called on the Israel authorities “to respect and ensure basic due process rights, with particular attention to the rights and protections afforded to children” and to release Tamimi in accordance with these protections.

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