Palestine: Hares Boys should be freed

Issue 
Palestinian footballer and former political prisoner Mahmoud Sarsak at a rally in London to free the Hares Boys. Photo from Free

“I want all the people to come to the court and see what democracy in Israel really is,” said the mother of Palestinian youth Ali Shamlawi, being held in jail by Israel on fabricated charges.

On March 14, there was an accident near Salfit in the West Bank when an Israeli settler’s car crashed into the back of Israeli truck. Four people in the car were hurt, one seriously. The truck had stopped on the road due to a flat tire.

Later, this accident was described by the car's settler driver as a stone throwing attack by Palestinian youths.

This claim has no basis in fact. There were no witnesses or reports of any Palestinian children or youths throwing stones that day. The truck driver later mentioned seeing some stones beside the road.

Over the next few days, more than 50 Israeli soldiers carried out raids in the village of Hares, and violently arrested and many children and youths. The Israeli army forces were joined by agents from Shabak, the Israeli secret service. Several boys were taken off to prison, blindfolded and handcuffed.

A week later, the Israeli army re-entered the village just after school and arrested several more boys, including a six-year-old. These boys were lined up and questioned at gun point, before the army randomly picked three boys aged 13, 14 and 17 and took them away.

None of the families were informed of the allegations against the boys or the location the army had detained them. None of these boys had any history of stone-throwing. Eventually, 19 children and taken off to the notorious G4S secured children’s section at Al-Jalame Prison.

In prison, the youths were viciously abused and kept in solitary confinement for up to two weeks in tiny, windowless cells with no mattress or blankets. Lights were kept on in the cells, the food made them ill and they were denied lawyers.

After violent interrogations, most of the minors were released, without charge, including two after paying almost $1800 each.

But five boys, now known as the Hares Boys, remained in jail after “confessing”. To secure confessions, they were ill-treated and coerced with sexual threats made against the female members of their families.

One of the boys, Ali Shamlawi, was beaten daily, kept in an isolation cell for the first 16 days in jail and faced with threats made against his mother and sister.

After the confessions were extracted from the five boys, they were charged with 25 counts of attempted murder, even though there were only four people in the car. The Israeli military court decided that as 25 stones were allegedly thrown, each stone was an “intent to kill”.

The five boys charged are aged 16 and 17, and locked up in an adult facility in Megiddo Prison. The boys have been granted only limited visits with their families and lawyers since being held in jail. Their military court hearings has been closed to outside observers.

The Hares Boys were condemned as guilty and labelled in the Israeli media as terrorists before any investigation ― and before their “confessions”.

As well as the coerced “confessions”, the prosecution’s case rests on 61 “witnesses” who came forward from surrounding Israeli settlements after the car accident got media coverage as a “terrorist act”. These witnesses claimed their cars were damaged on the same day by stones.

Other “witnesses” include police and Shabak agents not even present at the time. No evidence of injuries, hospital admissions or car damage has been documented or presented as evidence to the boy’s lawyers.

Thousands of Palestinian youths are treated as adults in the Israeli military court system. According to international human rights law and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, adults are people over 18 years of age.

Palestinian youths are denied any semblance of justice in the Israeli military count system, which convicts Palestinian children at a rate of 99.7%.

In fact, a study by the Israeli NGO “No Legal Frontiers” over a period of a year found that 100% of Palestinian children brought before the Israeli military court in that time were convicted.

The charges also ignore evidence that places the boys elsewhere at the time of the crash. Shamlawi's mother said: “When the car crashed into the truck, the boys were already in the village ... When they heard the crash, they were in front of the school, so they couldn’t have been throwing stones.”

The case against the Hares Boys is full of improper legal procedures, including:

The boys were held in Al-Jalame Prison and now Megiddo Prison, both inside the Israel's formal borders. Transferring detained, arrested, or imprisoned people from occupied territories to the territory of the occupier is in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

* The unfair and racist Israeli “justice” system imposed on Palestinians. No matter what the alleged crime, Palestinians are tried under military law, while Israelis go to the civil court system for the same offenses.

* The violent arrests of children at night, without any explanation given to the families to inform them of the arrest or their child’s whereabouts, is against Israel’s own law. Israeli law state that minors are to be accompanied by an adult family member when detained or arrested.

* Children being put into solitary confinement for days. This is recognised bu the United Nations as a form of torture. In this case, those arrested were subjected to solitary confinment before any charges had even been laid, let alone proved in a trial.

*Abusive interrogations were used, amounting to torture.

* The boys were arrested and charged despite a total lack of evidence against them to support the allegations. They were condemned as guilty by the Israeli media, which is against the universal presumption of innocence until found guilty.

The case could also set a very dangerous precedent if the five boys are convicted. Such a legal precedent would allow Israeli military courts to convict Palestinian children for attempted murder in alleged cases of stone throwing.

If the five boys are convicted, they face 25 years-to-life in jail. This case is already a gross miscarriage of justice. The Hares Boys should be unconditionally released.

[Sign a petition to free the Hares Boys. For more information, join Free the Hares Boys Facebook group or visit HaresBoys.wordpress.com.]


Comments

Apart from the immense emotional pain, having a family member imprisoned also puts a heavy financial burden on the family.

The Israeli Prison Service is pursuing a deliberate policy of neglecting its obligations to provide for prisoners’ basic needs.

The low quantity and quality of food provided in the prison means that in order to have enough nutrition, the boys have to buy over-priced products in the prison canteen; the same applies to hygiene products, such as toothpaste or soap.

The families are only allowed to bring their sons a small package of clothes twice a year – in May and November. Specific requirements apply: no pockets, and only brown, black, red, and white colour clothes. Other clothing and footwear has to be bought in the prison at high prices.

Additionally, the families have to pay the travel expenses for court hearings and prison visits.

Please chip in to help the families bear this financial burden on this crowd-funding project: http://namlebee.com/index.php?np=proyecto&;pro=27 It's easy and secure to donate online.

Thank you.

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