| B'Tselem says at least 81 Palestinian minors were detained between November 2009 and October 2010 [GALLO/GETTY]
An Israeli human rights group has accused the police of arresting Palestinian minors as young as five in east Jerusalem and dealing with them in ways that violate the country's laws, as well as international laws.
In a report released on Monday, B'Tselem has said Israeli police arrested at least 81 Palestinian minors between November 2009 and October 2010 on suspicion of throwing stones at Israelis in the Silwan neighbourhood near Jerusalem's Old City.
"The Jerusalem Police systematically violates the law, primarily the Youth Law, which grants minors special rights in criminal matters and prohibits, as a rule, interrogation of minors at night," the group said.
The report said many arrests were made at night, "by taking the minors from their beds and rushing them to interrogation... in most cases in order to obtain information on incidents that occurred a few days earlier."
It also accused police interrogators of illegally preventing parents from attending the questioning of their children, and said many minors complained of violent treatment during their arrests.
"Their complaints of violence were disregarded or treated with scorn, and in the isolated cases in which the Department for the Investigation of Police opened an investigation, it was closed without any proceedings being taken against the persons responsible."
Detention of minors
B'Tselem said it had documented the detention of at least four children younger than 12, the age of criminal responsibility in Israel, "meaning they are not subject to criminal proceedings."
In one case, an eight-year old was detained in the middle of the night "only because his name was identical to that of another child who was suspected of throwing stones," the group said.
B'Tselem called on police to immediately end such arrests and interrogations and instead "emphasise options for the rehabilitation of the minors and for preventing injury to them."
"The police conducted these arrests in a harmful manner, which reflects disregard of the rights and needs of the child suspects and may have serious consequences on their future development," the report said.
Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman denied the report's allegations and said arrests were "carried out according to the law".
"The large majority of those suspects that were questioned and arrested admitted to being involved in violence," he told AFP news agency.
Rosenfeld acknowledged parents were not always present during questioning their children, but said the interrogations were monitored over closed-circuit television and parents always escorted their children to the police station.
He said night arrests were made only when "operational intelligence" suggested the suspect would best be apprehended at night, and denied allegations police were violent during the arrest of minors.
Rosenfeld also blamed the local community for failing to provide their children with alternatives to stone-throwing.
"There is a huge gap in the responsibility that the parents as well as the leaders of the community are taking on themselves," he said.
"The leaders of those communities have to set up social activities in order to prevent those teenagers from being on the street and ending up with a criminal record."
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