The campaign to FREE AHED TAMIMI and ALL PALESTINIAN CHILDREN was launched at a press conference held at the Cape Town Press Club on Wednesday, 31 January 2018. A recording of the press conference is available here.
PSC Press Statement 31 January 2018
Ahed Tamimi is a 16-year-old Palestinian girl who was arrested after a video of her slapping an Israeli soldier went viral. The slap was in response to a group of Israeli soldiers attempting to forcibly enter her home, allegedly to use her house as a vantage point for intimidating other Palestinian children in the area with gunfire. Soldiers had entered the village of Nabi Saleh and had been shooting rubber bullets, sound-bombs and teargas canisters that had shattered several windows in her home. Ahed’s 15-year-old cousin, Mohammed Tamimi had minutes before, been shot in the face with a rubber-coated metal bullet at close range that penetrated his skull. Ahed was arrested three days after the “slap incident” in a pre-dawn raid on her home on 19 December 2017, has been denied bail and remains in detention.
Israel is the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts that lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees. In the West Bank, there are two separate legal systems in the same territory. No Israeli settler child comes into contact with the military court system. Palestinian children, however, are subjected to various forms of torture and cruel treatment, such as blindfolding, sleep deprivation and physical violence in the form of handcuffing, beating, starving, swearing and insults, threatening to arrest or hurt their family members, immense psychological pressure is exerted to extract confessions and to sign paperwork in Hebrew, a language they don’t understand.
Amnesty International confirms that children are routinely subjected to prolonged interrogation with no access to lawyers or while in solitary confinement.
As South Africans, the brutality of Apartheid resides in our not so distant past. For the Palestinians, this brutality and injustice is their daily reality. Palestinian children should not be detained or prosecuted under the jurisdiction of military courts. However, as a minimum safeguard, while Palestinians continue to be subjected to the dictates of military occupation, Israeli authorities must respect and ensure basic due process rights and immediately prohibit torture and ill-treatment. From the moment of arrest, operations and procedures must be carried out in accordance with international juvenile justice standards, specifically the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including:
- Detention must only be used as a last resort, and only for the shortest appropriate time;
- Children must not be subjected to physical or psychological violence;
- Children must have access to legal consultation and parents prior to and during interrogations;
- Children must only be arrested during daylight hours;
- Children must be properly informed of their right to silence;
- Children must not be blindfolded or painfully restrained;
- Children must not be subjected to coercive force or threats;
- All interrogations must be audio-visually recorded;
- Any incriminating evidence obtained during interrogation where a child was not properly and effectively informed of his or her right to silence must be excluded by the military courts;
- Any statement made as a result of torture or ill-treatment must be excluded as evidence in any proceeding;
- The practice of using solitary confinement on children in Israeli military detention, whether in pre-trial detention for interrogation purposes or as a form of punishment, must be stopped immediately and the prohibition must be enshrined in law;
- The practice of using administrative detention orders against Palestinian children must stop immediately and the prohibition must be enshrined in law;
- All credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be thoroughly and impartially investigated in accordance with international standards, and perpetrators brought promptly to justice; and
- Children must not be transferred out of the West Bank in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
We, as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign of South Africa along with our partner organisations, note, with dismay and disappointment that our fellow compatriots in the form of the South African Zionist Federation and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, having been a witness, apologist and supporter of the brutality of the racist Apartheid Israeli regime and has been silent on the continued incarceration of Ahed Tamimi and all Child Prisoners.
We, note that institutions such as the South African Human Rights Commission, the ruling African National Congress, the Department of International Relations and progressive political parties and former political prisoners such as the leader of the Congress of the People or COPE, the DA the EFF and others have not prioritised this flagrant violation of the Rights of Children.
We have noted that start of the trial of AHED TAMIMI due to start today on her 17th Birthday has again been postponed extending the agony of imprisonment and the violation of her rights as a child, without condemnation.
We have gathered here to express our solidarity with, Ahed, the Tamimi children, the children of the village of Nabih Saleh and all the children that were arrested and imprisoned by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). The cowardly, military establishment deliberately arrests children at 2 am and 3 am with the express purpose to terrorise children and their families.
We want to highlight that there has been a rapid rise in the arrest of children following the declaration by US President Donald Trump, that Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel. This declaration, as much of his racist and misogynistic pronouncements, are reckless and irresponsible and serve to embolden the Israeli Apartheid government to continue to act with impunity.
This flagrant abuse of Palestinian children and continued conditions of terror that Palestinians face on a daily basis is an integral part of the incremental colonial genocide of the Palestinian people. Once again the world is failing to respond proportionately, re-enforced by the media’s portrayal of Israel’s colonial genocide of Palestinians as an historical “conflict” of equal powers and informed by several myths about the making of Israel and Zionist Jewish claims to Palestinian land at any human costs.
We are extremely disappointed that the “international community” has failed to respond proportionately to the multiple human rights atrocities of the Israeli regime. Yet many countries such as Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Iran, Russia and Syria have had severe penalties imposed on them such as destruction of their countries with millions of people killed, injured or forced to become insecure refugees. At the very least harsh economic and political sanctions are imposed on them that slowly destroy the lives of entire populations. All justified in the name of human rights abuses.
We are especially disappointed by the pathetic response of the ANC government which has been in power for more than two decades and has done nothing substantial to support the Palestinians’ liberation struggle. Despite its own experience of global support by the anti-Apartheid movement for boycotts, sanctions and divestment (BDS) that ultimately forced the hand of the apartheid government towards a negotiated settlement, the ANC government has simply occasionally uttered rhetorical statements in support of Palestinians without action. We must ask the question – why has the government not adopted legislation in support of BDS against the Apartheid Israeli regime? Will they continue to be observers and ultimately like many other governments around the world be complicit in the genocide of Palestinians through their inaction?
We note that the 54th conference of the ruling African National Congress called for the downgrading of the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv. After years of people demanding the severing of diplomatic ties with Apartheid Israel, the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador and closure of its Embassy in Pretoria, this call for the downgrading is a weak and ineffective call. No evidence has been produced that the DIRCO has in fact acted on this call. Words of Solidarity with the Palestinian People or the condemnation of Apartheid Israel in International fora is clearly not enough.
We expect more and demand more from the an ANC government led by Cyril Ramaphosa, who has in fact met Ahed Tamimi during her visit in August 2017.