The Quality of Mercy


If the quality of mercy droppeth as gentle rain from heaven, then Israel is a dry and parched land.

One who languishes and thirsts is Daoud Dirawi.

He is a 29 year old lawyer, who was detained in Jerusalem on February 21 2003, while buying medicine for his two year old daughter. After being kicked and beaten by border guards, he was later taken prisoner by the secret police. He suffered further beatings and torture; his jaw was dislocated and he was left without medical treatment and therefore could barely eat. Since February, he has been detained and is now in a military prison, without specific charges or even a trial in sight.

He is not a terrorist. And he fits under the designation given to those political prisoners, by Israel and Palestine, of being one who has “no blood upon his hands”. He has never had blood upon his hands. He did, however, prior to his detainment, have the affidavits of children who have been indefinitely detained by the Israeli military, “in” his hands and he was looking to obtain more affidavits of abuse suffered by Palestinian children while under grievous confinement.

Prior to his arrest, Daoud worked for the Defence for Children International/Palestine. Defence for Children International (DCI) is an independent non governmental organization set up during the International Year of the Child (circa 1979) in order to ensure and protect the rights of the child.

This is not the first time Daoud has been detained. And, in retrospect and consideration of the circumstances, it seems no co-incidence that this advocate and human rights lawyer has been thus targeted more than once. With his legal expertise, he monitored, investigated and subsequently challenged the treatment of Palestinian minors who have been detained by Israeli military and who have experienced all sorts of hardships, deprivations and inhumane treatment. The recorded abuse ranges from beatings and kicking to bathroom deprivation and “shabom”, which is “positional” torture – meaning to be forced into maintaining an uncomfortable position for a duration of time.

As of July 3, 2003 and with figures provided by the IDF, there are 763 Palestinians “officially” in Administrative Detention. The IDF also has detained Palestinians with administrative detention orders who have not yet been “officially” approved by a judge. Officially and unofficially, these people are detained via military order and kept imprisoned indefinitely. Some minors have been detained for years. Here is how it breaks down:

* Number of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, as of July 8, 2003: 5892

* Number of children under the age of 18 among the prisoners: 351

* Minimum age of children who can be arrested according to Israeli Military (Order #132: Age 12)

* Maximum number of months a Palestinian can be detained by an administrative order: 6 months

* Number of consecutive administrative detention orders allowed by Israeli law: UNLIMITED

* Number of Israeli judges needed to approve an administrative detention order: 0 (zero)

* Number of Palestinian prisoners so detained who have actually been tried: 1

* Number of Palestinian prisoners released by Israel on June 3, 2003: 121

* Number of minors released on June 3, 2003: 0 Such detainment, without either charge or trial, is legal under International Law. However, because of its potential danger and abuse to personal freedom, it is restricted in its use. According to International Law, it is to be used solely to prevent acts of violence or in clear and present dangers to security. Never is it to be used as a punishment; never collectively and only as a last resort, when less severe measures have proven ineffective. Under International Law, the detainee has the right to counsel and the right to be brought before a judge …..promptly.

According to Israel, Administrative Detention is legal and applicable to the Occupied Territories and also applicable under domestic Israeli law. The original Military Order 1229, goes back to 1988 and empowers the military in the West Bank to detain individuals up to six months, with added provision for indefinite amounts of extended administrative detention.

According to standards set by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the monitoring body of the International Covenant on Civil Rights, Israel’s interpretation of International Law, is grossly out of line with its own agreement and ratification of those standards. Further compound this defiance of International Law with direct violations to the Fourth Geneva Convention with additional offenses to Humanitarian Laws, especially with regards to children. The children have been forced to suffer along with the adults. It was these children Daoud Dirawi investigated.

At present, the Israeli government permits its military to detain individuals and groups (some of whom are minors) without charges, without evidence, without counsel, without adequate medical attention for long indefinite periods of time; sometimes and more often than not, lasting years into administrative detentions.

For someone like myself who does not take for granted democratic freedoms, I find the situation as it affects one individual, Daoud Dirawi, appalling; but for 5,892 prisoners..including the children, it is beyond disgrace and it is a shameful disregard of the international community who participate and abide by their commitment to International Law and Humanitarian Laws as governed by the Geneva Convention.

According to B’Tselem, the Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, which was established in 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members, in order to create a culture of human rights for everyone in Israel, administrative detention is most often randomly determined by the military with little regard for any law, let alone International Law. B’Tselem has expressed dissatisfaction and outrage:

” Our experience with the Oslo Process demonstrates that a peace process that does not ensure human rights is inherently unstable. The Process began with a mood of optimism and dramatic improvements in human rights in several spheres, particularly as a result of the IDF redeployment from Palestinian cities. However, human rights abuses continued alongside the diplomatic negotiations. Indeed, in retrospect, it is clear that the continuation of these abuses – the massive settlement construction, extensive detentions without trial, severe restrictions on Palestinian movement, house demolitions, and the systematic use of torture by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority – is one of the causes for the failure of the Oslo Process.

While the road map includes a number of provisions that could ensure that Israelis and Palestinians enjoy their basic rights, these provisions are worded as ‘diplomatic gestures’ rather than as legally binding obligations. For example, some of Israel’s most egregious violations of human rights – attacks on civilians, deportations and collective punishments such as house demolitions – are phrased as measures which “undermine trust” rather than as violations of binding legal obligations both of Israel and on other High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Evidently there are some in Israel, clearly not those in power, who have proper ideals and perspectives on human rights with regards to nurturing a lasting peace. I would also add, to what purpose and lesson do these youngsters study at the hands of their captors? do they learn any better alternative to understanding and believing in a future justice for Palestine?

It is also quite evident as an American, I have much to preoccupy myself with at home. It appears, that when Secretary of State, Colin Powell, presented himself at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s Annual Policy Conference in Washington on March 31, 2003, he did not address these issues, nor the issue of International Peace Workers, including the death of Rachel Corrie which had just occurred, March 17, 2003. Instead, he promised Israel, under the auspices of President Bush’s directive, even more money in foreign aid:

” I am very pleased that President Bush has included in his supplemental budget request that just went to Congress $1b in foreign military financing funds to help Israel strengthen its military and civil defenses. And that’s just for starters. The president is also asking for $9bn in loan guarantees. These loan guarantees will help Israel deal with the economic costs arising from the conflict, and will help Israel to implement the critical economic and budgetary reforms it needs to get its economy back on track. ”

Also at the AIPAC dinner was United State Senate Majority Leader, Republican Bill Frist of Tennessee. While he spoke out against tyranny, he did not speak out on behalf of peace activist and US citizen, Rachel Corrie or the detainees who suffer from Israel’s bellicose nationalism in the form of administrative detentions. While he spoke out about infants and children, he did not speak about Palestinian infants and children. He said,

“We now live in a time of moral clarity. Nations must make clear choices. And their leaders must step forward and take a stand. Does one believe in dictatorship — or democracy? Should one’s people live in tyranny — or liberty? Will one spread turmoil — or work for peace? There are right answers and wrong answers to these questions. America, Israel, and our allies stand for what is right. ”

As an American taxpayer, I can only consider such a promise of monies and such slanted support to be in serious disregard of Israel’s offenses. It is a blind and callous reinforcement of flagrant disregard of International and Humanitarian Laws concerning the rights of adults and children while under administrative detention. It seems obvious from such promises, that rather than use its power and influence via foreign aid, in a timely and just way and as means towards promoting a lasting peace in the Middle East, this Administration is more willing and determined to continue to shield and support Israel in its corruption of International and Humanitarian Laws.

Consider these implications: International and Humanitarian Law is NOT negotiable. Nor should it be rewarded in its disregard.

Mary La Rosa July 21, 2003


REFERENCES:

B’Tselem : http://www.btselem.org/

Defence For Children International-Palestine

http://www.dci-pal.org/first.html

Free DCI Lawyer, Daoud Dirawi: http://www.dci-pal.org/free/free.html

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders: http://www.omct.org/default.asp?Language=EN

“Furthermore, according to the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and B’Tselem, the practice of torture has not ceased. Approximately 85 percent of all administrative detainees are still subjected to torture. Methods of torture include: sleep prevention, tying to a chair in painful positions, beating, slapping, kicking, threats, verbal abuse and humiliation, bending the body in extremely painful positions, intentional tightening of the handcuffs, stepping on manacles, application of pressure to different parts of the body, forcing the detainee to squat in a painful position (“Kambaz”), choking and other forms of violence and humiliation (pulling out hair, spitting etc.), ill treatment in solitary confinement include sleep prevention, exposure to extreme heat and cold, continuous exposure to artificial light, confinement in inhuman conditions. ”

~Michael Tarazi (amtarazi@nsu-pal.org ) PLO Negotiations Affairs Dept.

http://www.nsu-pal.org/index.html

UN Convention On The Rights Of The Child (CRC)

“In all actions concerning children, … the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” (article 3)

“Basic procedural safeguards such as the presumption of innocence, the right to be notified of the charges, the right to remain silent, the right to counsel, the right to the presence of a parent or guardian, the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses and the right to appeal to a higher authority shall be guaranteed at all stages of proceedings.” (article 7.1)

“Juveniles in institutions shall receive care, protection and all necessary assistance-social, educational, vocational, psychological, medical and physical-that they may require because of their age, sex, and personality and in the interest of their wholesome development.” (article 26.2)

“Juveniles in institutions shall be kept separate from adults and shall be detained in a separate institution or in a separate part of an institution also holding adults.” (article 26.3)

United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty

“A juvenile is every person under the age of 18. The age limit below which it should not be permitted to deprive a child of his or her liberty should be determined by law;” “Every juvenile of compulsory school age has the right to education suited to his or her needs and abilities and designed to prepare him or her for return to society.” (article 38)

“Every juvenile shall receive adequate medical care, both preventive and remedial, including dental, ophthalmologic and mental health care, as well as pharmaceutical products and special diets as medically indicated.” (article 49) The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, or the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Article 76:

“Protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein. They shall receive the medical attention required by their state of health. Proper regard shall be paid to the special treatment due to minors. Protected persons who are detained shall have the right to be visited by delegates of the Protecting Power and of the International Committee of the Red Cross, in accordance with the provisions of Article 143.”

US Senator, Bill Frist, M.D. http://frist.senate.gov/press-item.cfm?id=191928


Mary La Rosa is an artist and librarian living 20 miles from NYC, where she actively encourages all citizens to vote and participate in better government, by the People and for the People. mddalton@optonline.net

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