Israel should release 16-year-old Palestinian activist, Ahed Tamimi
Ahed, who is due in court today, faces possible ten-year jail sentence
‘The footage of this incident shows that she posed no actual threat and that her punishment is blatantly disproportionate’ - Magdalena Mughrabi
The Israeli authorities must release Ahed Tamimi, the 16-year-old Palestinian activist who could face up to ten years in prison over an altercation with Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank last month, Amnesty International said ahead of her appearance in court today (15 January).
The teenager will appear before Ofer military court in the occupied West Bank accused of aggravated assault and 11 other charges, after a video - showing her shoving, slapping and kicking two Israeli soldiers in her home village of Nabi Saleh on 15 December - was widely-circulated on Facebook.
Ahed confronted the soldiers during a demonstration against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The video shows that the soldiers, who were standing on the edge of the family’s walled front yard armed with assault rifles, were able to lightly swat away Ahed’s slaps and kicks. However, the clip outraged many Israelis, with Education Minister Naftali Bennett telling Israeli army radio that Ahed and two other women involved in the incident “should finish their lives in prison”.
The incident took place on the same day that Ahed’s 15-year-old cousin, Mohammad, was hit in the head at close range by a rubber bullet fired by an Israeli soldier. His family told Amnesty that he required surgery involving the removal of part of his skull.
Four days after the incident, Ahed and her mother, Nariman, were arrested by Israeli soldiers. The arrests took place after Nariman, also a prominent activist, posted the footage online. Another cousin of Ahed’s, Nour, 21, was arrested the following day but has since been released on bail. On 1 January, Ahed and Nariman were charged with aggravated assault of soldiers and preventing them from carrying out their duties. Ahed faces a total of 12 charges, including incitement on social media and offences related to five other alleged altercations with Israeli soldiers over the past two years.
Ahed’s lawyer says she has faced several long and aggressive interrogation sessions, sometimes during the night, and has received threats against her family by interrogators. According to her family, Ahed has also endured several physically-exhausting transfers from prison to court alongside other child detainees, without access to a toilet.
Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a state party, the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child must be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.
Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said:
“Nothing that Ahed Tamimi has done can justify the continuing detention of a 16-year-old girl. The Israeli authorities must release her without delay.
“In capturing an unarmed teenage girl’s assault on two armed soldiers wearing protective gear, the footage of this incident shows that she posed no actual threat and that her punishment is blatantly disproportionate.
“Ahed Tamimi’s ensuing arrest and military trial exposes the Israeli authorities’ discriminatory treatment of Palestinian children who dare to stand up to ongoing, often brutal, repression by occupying forces.
“Israel is clearly, brazenly flouting its obligations under international law to protect children from overly harsh criminal punishments.”
Nabi Saleh and the Tamimi family
Since 2009, the small village of Nabi Saleh, north-west of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, has been the scene of regular Friday protests against Israel’s military occupation, the theft of land and the loss of the community’s water source. The Israeli army routinely uses excessive force against protesters and bystanders, and has in many cases deliberately damaged private property. During the past nine years, three residents have been killed by Israeli soldiers, while hundreds have suffered injuries caused by live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas.
Ahed’s father, Bassem Tamimi - a former Amnesty prisoner of conscience - has recently been banned from leaving the country. The Israeli authorities have also issued a threat to a further 20 members of the Tamimi family that they could be banned from living in Nabi Saleh.
Hundreds of Palestinian children prosecuted every year
There are currently some 350 Palestinian children in Israeli prisons and detention centres, according to local human rights organisations.
The Israeli army prosecutes hundreds of Palestinian children in juvenile military courts every year, often after arresting them in night raids and subjecting them to ill-treatment, including blindfolding, threats, harsh interrogations without the presence of their lawyers or families, solitary confinement and in some cases physical violence.
Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are prosecuted under military orders enforced through the military courts, and many criminalise peaceful activities such as peaceful political expression or organising and attending protests without prior permission from an Israeli military commander. The judges and the prosecution in these cases are part of the Israeli military. The jurisdiction of the Israeli military court system is never applied to Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, who are instead governed by Israeli civil law. Incidents of settler violence in the West Bank normally go unpunished, while Palestinians are routinely targeted and arrested.