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Issue #1645      July, 2, 2014

Free the Hares Boys

Five Palestinian teenagers are facing life imprisonment for a crime that never happened. After a car accident a settler labelled them as “terrorists”. And over a year after their arrest the Hares Boys, Ali Shamlawi, Tamer Souf, Ammer Souf, Mohammed Suleiman and Mohammed Kleib are still awaiting trial and are still imprisoned. The Israeli military are calling for harsh prison sentences for the boys, who could face up to 25 years in prison.

“I want all the people to come to the court and see what democracy in Israel really is.” Ali Shamlawi’s mother

On March 14, 2013, there was an accident on the occupied West Bank, Palestine, when an Israeli settler’s car crashed into the back of Israeli truck, resulting in four people in the car being hurt, one seriously. The truck had stopped on the roadway due to a flat tyre near Salfit. Later this accident was described by the woman settler driver of the car as a stone throwing attack by Palestinian youths. This was a totally fabricated report of the event, with 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.

The next few days from March 15, onwards over 50 Israeli soldiers carried out raids in the village of Hares in the early hours of the mornings and violently arrested and questioned many children and teenagers from the village. The Israeli army forces were joined by Shabak, (Israeli Secret Service) agents. Several boys were detained, blindfolded, handcuffed and taken off to prison.

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 were taken off to the notorious G4S secured children’s section at Al-Jalame Prison.

In prison the youths were viciously abused and locked up in solitary confinement for up to two weeks in windowless 1 metre by 2 metre cells with no mattress or blankets to sleep on. Lights were kept on in the cells, the food made them ill and they were denied lawyers. Following the violent interrogations most of the minors were released, without charge, including two after paying US$1,600 dollars (AU$1,796 dollars) each.

But five boys, now known as the Hares Boys remained in prison after confessing. To secure confessions from these five boys they were ill-treated and coerced with sexual threats made against the female members of their families. For instance, one of the boys, Ali Shamlawi, was beaten each day, kept in an isolation cell for the first 16 days and had threats made against his mother and sister.

After the confessions were extracted by torture from the five Hares boys they were charged with 25 counts of attempted murder, even though there were only four people in the car. Apparently, the Israeli military court had decided that as 25 stones were allegedly thrown, each stone was an “intent to kill”. The five boys are now aged 16-17 years old and are currently locked up in another G4S secured adult facility, Megiddo Prison. The boys have only been granted limited visits with their families and lawyers since being held in prison. And each of their military court hearings has been closed to outside observers.

The Hares Boys have been condemned and labelled in the Israeli media as terrorists and being guilty even before an investigation, or before they “confessed” to stone-throwing under duress. The prosecution’s case rests on the boy’s coerced “confessions” and the 61 Israeli “witnesses” who came forward from surrounding Israeli settlements after the car accident got media coverage as a “terrorist act” to claim their cars were damaged on the same day by stones. Other “witnesses” include police and Shabak agents who were 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 youngsters like the Hares Boys are treated in the Israeli military court system as adults. According to international human rights law and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in particular, adults are people who are over 18 years of age. They have been denied any semblance of justice in the Israeli military court system: A court system that convicts Palestinian children at a rate of 99.7 percent, which is very similar to the world’s worst oppressive regimes.

A study by the Israeli NGO “No Legal Frontiers” over a period of a year concluded that 100 percent of Palestinian children brought before the Israeli military court in that time were convicted. The Israeli military court system is no reputable or fair justice system for any Palestinian civilian to be tried under, let alone children.

“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.” Ali Shamlawi’s mother

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

  • The boys have been held in Al-Jalame Prison and then later in Megiddo Prison, both inside the 1948 territories of Israel. Transferring detained, arrested, or imprisoned people from occupied territories to the territory of the occupier is in violation of international law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention.
  • The unfair and racist Israeli “justice” system is imposed on Palestinians. No matter what the alleged crime, Palestinians are forced to go through the military courts and are tried under military law, while Israelis go to the civil court system for the same offences.
  • The violent arrests of children at night, without any explanation given to the families for the arrests or informing them of their children’s whereabouts are against Israel’s own law. These laws state that minors are to be accompanied by an adult family member when detained or arrested.
  • Children being put into solitary confinement for days is recognised as a form of torture and is considered a severe punishment, especially as no charges had been laid or a conviction recorded.
  • Abusive interrogations of minors is considered as torture.
  • The boys were arrested and charged despite a total lack of evidence against them to support the allegations and condemned as guilty by the Israeli media, which is against the universal presumption of innocence, that is innocent until found guilty.

“He is a 16 year old child, how do you think he could resist under this pressure before confessing.” Niemeh Shamlawi

This case could also set a very dangerous precedent if the five Hares Boys are convicted. Such a legal precedent would then allow Israeli military courts to convict Palestinian children as young as 12 years old for attempted murder in alleged cases of stone throwing. If the five boys are convicted they will be locked up for 25 plus years to life imprisonment.

At first no one made any claim that stones were thrown. The first search of the car, by police from the illegal settlement, produced no evidence of any stones, but a subsequent search two days later uncovered a single stone in the vehicle. The court, like the vast majority of cases against Palestinians, through the Israeli military system has not called a single Palestinian witness. Instead they have focused on an Israeli woman who was driving nearby and a passing truck driver, neither of who can say that they saw anyone throwing stones.

The lives of five Palestinian boys will be destroyed with no evidence whatsoever of an incident or offence having been committed. This case is a gross miscarriage of justice as the Hares Boys are innocent and should be unconditionally released. Take a stand and help get justice for Hares Boys. The Hares Boys have now been imprisoned for over one year.

Fight for Justice! Free the Hares Boys!

What Can Be Done – Please sign a petition, pass a motion at your workplace, organise or join a rally to publicise the case, write letters to newspapers, politicians and the Israeli Embassy protesting the unjust treatment of the Hares Boys. Urge the international media, legal and human rights groups to pay more attention to this case of blatant injustice.

For more information or to support the campaign look up the Hares Boys Facebook page – Free the Hares Boys or haresboys.wordpress.com

Next article – Culture & Life – News, democratic opinion and exploitation

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