Duration of Detention: 7 Months
Date of Arrest: 5 June 2008
Date of Release: 1 January 2009
Duration of Detention: 7 months
Number of administrative detention orders: Two
Age at arrest: 16 and a half
Only a half hour earlier that same night, a similar scene occurred at the Siureh’s house in Bethlehem. Sara and her new husband were suddenly startled to hear a loud banging on the door. Sara’s husband opened the door and was confronted with soldiers and the Israeli Security Agency. They stormed into the house and a female soldier shouted at Sara to get dressed. Sara too, was handcuffed, blindfolded and dragged out to the military jeep.
Salwa and Sara are both cousins. Their case constitutes the first administrative detention of Palestinian girls under the age of 18. Following their arrest, Salwa and Sara were taken briefly to Telmond Prison and then to Ofer Prison where they were interrogated for one hour. During the interrogation, they were allegedly asked about their occupation and activities as well as relations with political groups. The girls did not confess to anything. After one hour the girls were taken back to Telmond prison where they spent a couple of days. They were then taken to Damon prison where they were detained until 1 January 2009. Both girls were informed of their release only on the morning of January 1st. The news was both a shock and a pleasant surprised to them and their families who were living a nightmare ever since they became acquainted with the term “administrative detention”. As they were informed too late, neither Sara’s nor Salwa’s parents were able to welcome them at the Al-Jalameh checkpoint. Instead, their uncle and cousins who lived in the area came to meet them, whereas both girls’ parents waited for them at the entry to Bethlehem city.
On 12 June 2008 Salwa and Sara were issued with military administrative detention orders. The orders had been set for four months (in respect of Salwa) and five months (in respect of Sara). A military court confirmed the orders on June 18th. An appeal hearing also confirmed the orders on July 16th although Sara’s sentence was reduced from five to four months. They were due to be released on October 4th 2008.
On 5 October 2008 both girls were issued with a second administrative detention order. On 6 October 2008 a judicial review of the administrative detention order took place. Eyal Noon, the military judge in charge, upheld the order for a further three months from 4 October 2008 until 3 January 2009 claiming that the girls were still ‘dangerous’ to the public despite that the military prosecutor had provided no information since the girls’ arrest.
On 2 November 2008 the Military Judge at Ofer Military Court rejected the appeal by Addameer Attorney Mahmoud Hassan to reduce the administrative detention order of Salwa Salah and Sara Siureh, effectively prolonging their detention until 3 January 2008.
Since their arrest, Salwa and Sara’s human rights have consistently been violated. In addition to the soldiers’ use of excessive force during the arrests, the girls also reported that during a transfer from Damon to Ramleh prison on 15 July, they suffered extremely abusive behaviour from the female police officer escorting them. In particular, the officer pushed them forcefully with her hands and shouted at them. When they arrived at Ramleh prison, Salwa and Sara were searched according to the existing procedure: they were asked to strip totally naked while a female officer searched their hair, body and mouth with gloves. They felt the search was humiliating.
Additionally, throughout the length of their detention, they were held with adult Palestinian female prisoners in Damon prison. Such an arrangement is blatantly in contravention with international law. Indeed, according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, anyone below the age of 18 is considered a child. Although such a definition is used by Israel in relation to its own citizens, it is not applied to Palestinians. As per military orders in use in the occupied Palestinian territory, any Palestinian above the age of 16 is considered an adult. Thus, all Palestinian girls between the ages of 16 to 18 are detained together with adult Palestinian women. As a result, they do not benefit from preferential treatment in terms of detention conditions or more frequent access to family visits, as stipulated by international law. Neither to they receive access to formal education whether vocational training or the continuation of their schooling education. In contrast, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) regulations allow Israeli juvenile offenders to complete formal education from grade 8 to 12 by providing them access to adequately trained teachers and a specially designed curriculum for them by the Ministry of Education.
This breach of international law mostly affected Salwa Salah who wished to continue her education while in prison. At the time of their arrest, Salwa had just successfully completed 11th grade and was accepted to the final year of secondary schooling, commonly known as Tawjihi. Due to her imprisonment and the lack of access to formal education in prison based on the Palestinian curriculum, she was unable to prepare for the final matriculation exam although she had requested to have access to a mathematics teacher. Now after her release, Salwa is back at school, determined to finish high school on time with her classmates. She has been studying really hard, her father says, taking additional courses after class to catch up on the classes she missed while in prison. She is doing well, full of life again, although prison has left some physical scars: strong headaches and constant stomachaches due to the prison’s poor nutrition. But the doctors say that with time, an appropriate nutrition and normal live her health condition will improve.