At approximately 16:00 on Saturday, 02 September 2017, Mustafa Fayeq ‘Abed Rabboh Salman (16) from Beit Lahia, arrived in a state of clinical death at the Indonesian Hospital in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip. Mustafa was detained at Beit Lahia police station for 2 months after he had been accused of being involved in a dispute. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns detaining a child in an adult detention center, and denounces what he was subjected to and brought him to this condition. PCHR calls upon the Attorney General to open a serious investigation into the incident and open another investigation into the circumstances of his detention and treatment in a place dedicated for adults instead of al-Rabi’a Juvenile detention center.
The victim’s family said to PCHR that “On Thursday morning, 31 August 2017, the two brothers of the victim addressed the Director of Beit Lahia police station to allow Mustafa to spend the Eid vacation with his family at home, but our request was refused. They were allowed to visit him on the first day of Eid, 01 September 2017. On the next day, they visited him with their mother. According to what they saw, there was only one person detained with Mustafa in the cell during the two days. During the visit, Mustafa complained about the bad treatment he received in the abovementioned detention center, and he was sad for not spending the Eid with the family. At approximately 16:00, we received a phone call informing us that Mustafa had a fight and was wounded and transferred to the Indonesian Hospital in Jabalia. When the two brothers arrived at the hospital, Mustafa was not moving and the doctors put him on the cardiopulmonary resuscitation device. There were signs of wounds in the abdomen and shoulders and a swelling in the neck. The police said that Mustafa committed suicide using his undershirt in the cell bathroom. He was then transferred to al-Shifa Hospital as he was in a state of clinical death as the brain cells were damaged according to the medical resources.”
Meanwhile, Director of the police station said to PCHR’s fieldworker,” The number of detainees inside the police station was 70. Fifty five of them were allowed to leave for the Eid vacation while 25 of them stayed in the police station. There were 8 detainees with Mustafa in the same room. Mustafa went to the bathroom to take a shower as there was another detainee, who also wanted to take a shower. Mustafa asked him to go first and the other agreed. He then entered the bathroom and opened the water. Ten minutes later, the other detainee felt that Mustafa was late inside, so he knocked on the door, but Mustafa did not respond. The detainee and 4 others opened the door and found Mustafa hanged to the window. He ripped off his undershirt, tied it to the window and hanged himself. The cell guard did him artificial respiration and then transferred him via a car to the Indonesian Hospital.”
The head of the police station commented on detaining a child in a place designated for adults that “He has an ID card, and his body is huge, so how could he be classified as a child?” He added that Mustafa’s family did not file a request for him to leave in the Eid vacation as they claimed. He said that they did not bring a reconciliation paper with the other family. Thus, Mustafa was not released for there were no guarantees that he will not be attacked by the other family (the other part to dispute).
PCHR express deep concern over the contradictory claims given by the police station about the circumstances of Mustafa’s injury and the contradiction of the official narrative with the wounds and bruises found on the victim’s body, which cannot be explained as a result of a suicide attempt using his undershirt.
PCHR is shocked at the criteria adopted by the director of the police station in specifying the childhood age that lacks professionalism and clearly violates the law. The results of these criteria became clear after Mustafa committed suicide (according to the police claims) due to being detained in a place not suitable for his mental age. It would not be different if the investigations indicated that the child was wounded in a quarrel as the police station’s director should have expected the results of detaining a child in this age with dangerous adults.
PCHR emphasizes that the logic of holding a child in a detention center for two months and refusing to release him on bail cannot be accepted on claims of protecting him from the other family’s assault (the other party to the dispute). PCHR considers that this logic is in conflict with justice and presumption of innocence and makes the accused person a victim of poor security and its inability to provide protection for civilians.
PCHR calls for an investigation, considering the detention center is primarily responsible for the lives of prisoners under Article 7 of Reform and Rehabilitation Centers’ Law No. 6/1998. PCHR also calls for investigation into the illegal detention of a child, maltreatment he was exposed to, and the circumstances of the incident that led to a state of clinical death.
PCHR strongly condemns the detention of a child inside a cell in a the police station of in a clear violation of the law, particularly Article 24 of the Reform and Rehabilitation Centers’ Law, which emphasized that children (under 18) should be detained in al-Rabi’a Facility. Therefore, PCHR calls upon the Attorney General to investigate the circumstances of the detention, which especially continued for two months in violation of the law, without any supervision or accountability.
PCHR calls for a serious investigation into allegations of maltreating the child during his detention, violating Article 37 of the Reform and Rehabilitation Centers Law, and not allowing him to spend the Eid vacation with his family, although almost all detainees were allowed to do so. PCHR emphasizes that all those involved should be brought to justice.
PCHR condemns the detention of Mustafa for more than twenty days on grounds of a dispute, noting that the Palestinian Child Law particularly Article (69) emphasizes, “Priority is given to preventive and educational means and to avoid as much as possible resorting to pretrial detention and penalties that deprives freedom”. PCHR is shocked with the long detention period in a case where a person is usually and only fined.
PCHR emphasizes the provisions of Article 20 of the presidential decree No. (4) of 2016, which stipulates that the detention of the juvenile (child) pending investigation is an exception if “the circumstances of the case require so and then the Juvenile Prosecution may order to arrest him in a social welfare home under the observation of a child protection advisor.” PCHR stressed that the juvenile should not detained pending investigation for a period exceeding the minimum sentence. Moreover, detention should be the last choice to resort to, and releasing the child on bail should be prioritized in addition to offering vacations, especially on public holidays.
PCHR believes that Mustafa was suffered serious violations of his rights as a child according to the Palestinian Law and 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child binding on the Palestinian Authority. Tort liability started when the child was arbitrarily detained pending investigation for 2 months in a place that is not dedicated for juveniles. As a result, the child was exposed to danger and cruel treatment until this ended up with this tragic incident which deprived him of his right to life that is guaranteed by the Palestinian Law and international standards binding on the Palestinian Authority. PCHR stresses that there are strong indications and evidence raising suspicion of negligence and subjecting the victim to inhumane treatment. Thus, PCHR will closely follow up the actions taken by the competent authorities to uncover the truth and ensure holding those responsible accountable.