Israeli army courts violate Palestinian minors’ rights, says NGO

Palestinian women react as an Israeli mounted policeman disperses Palestinian protesters, in this December 9, 2017 file photo, in East Jerusalem. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Israeli army courts violate Palestinian minors’ rights, says NGO

JERUSALEM: Reform of Israel’s military court system in the occupied West Bank has failed to stop “systematic violation” of Palestinian minors’ rights, an Israeli NGO said on Tuesday.
Human rights group B’Tselem said that the 2009 launch of a designated military juvenile court with the stated aim of “improving the protection of minors’ rights” had failed to deliver.
It said that introduction of the juvenile court rather resulted in only “technical changes (which) have not improved the protection of minors’ rights.”
It gave as an example the goal of shortening the length of time that minors are held in custody while awaiting trial.
In practice, it says, this has generated a greater frequency of remand hearings but the military judges “almost always” grant prosecution requests to extend custody.
“The changes introduced to the military justice system ... are superficial, and affect nothing more than form,” the report says, citing studies by UN children’s agency UNICEF and Defense for Children International, among others.
“The reports all point to the same factual findings which demonstrate that minors’ rights are regularly and systematically violated.”
A UNICEF report last year cited affidavits taken from 165 West Bank children held by Israel in 2016, saying that all had been subjected to ill treatment or breaches of due process, including not being properly advised of their rights.
Many reported “verbal abuse and intimidation during arrest, transfer, interrogation and/or detention,” UNICEF said.
The NGO said that figures provided by the Israel Prisons Service showed that as of Feb. 28, 2018 it held 356 Palestinian minors, nine of whom were serving sentences and 257 awaiting indictment or trial.
The report says that young suspects are frequently advised to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced prison sentence.
“The conviction rate in Israel’s military courts verges on 100 percent,” it says.
“This is not an indication of how effective the prosecution is in proving guilt, but rather a result of the fact that the overwhelming majority of the cases are closed in a plea bargain.”
Israel’s military said it had not yet received the report and could not comment.
A Palestinian teen arrested in December for slapping two Israeli soldiers who entered the yard of her West Bank home has become a vivid symbol of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Ahed Tamimi, who was 16 at the time, is being held in an Israeli prison until the end of proceedings against her.
She is hailed as a hero by Palestinians who see her as bravely standing up to Israel’s occupation.
Israelis accuse her family of using her as a pawn in staged provocations.
She has been charged on 12 counts including assault and could face a lengthy jail term if convicted.
Her trial opened on Feb. 21, behind closed doors, as is customary in the case of minors.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has criticized the actions of Israeli authorities in the case.
Her December scuffle with the soldiers took place amid clashes and protests against US President Donald Trump’s controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
At least 32 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed since Trump’s Dec. 6 announcement.


UAE to rebuild Iraq’s iconic Mosul mosque destroyed in Daesh fight

Updated 23 April 2018
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UAE to rebuild Iraq’s iconic Mosul mosque destroyed in Daesh fight

  • UAE donates over $50mn to reconstruct Mosul’s Great Mosque of Al-Nuri
  • The five-year project aims to give hope to Iraqi youths

BAGHDAD: The United Arab Emirates and Iraq on Monday launched a joint effort to reconstruct Mosul’s Great Mosque of Al-Nuri and its iconic leaning minaret, ravaged last year during battles to retake the city from militants.
During the ceremony at Baghdad’s National Museum, UAE Culture Minister Noura Al-Kaabi said her country would put forward $50.4 million (41.2 million euros) for the task.
“The five-year project is not just about rebuilding the mosque, the minaret and the infrastructure, but also about giving hope to young Iraqis,” she said.
“The millenia-old civilization must be preserved.”
The deal was signed by Kaabi and her Iraqi counterpart, Faryad Rawanduzi, in the presence of UNESCO’s Iraq representative Louise Haxthausen.
“This is an ambitious, highly symbolic project for the resurrection of Mosul and Iraq,” said Haxthausen.
“The work has already begun, the site is now protected... we must first clear the site, remove the rubble (and) document, before we can begin reconstructing the mosque and its minaret.”
The famed 12th century mosque and its leaning minaret — dubbed “the hunchback,” or Al-Habda, by locals — was destroyed in June 2017.
The Iraqi army accused Daesh militants of destroying it with explosives as Iraqi forces steadily retook ground in the embattled city.
It was in this mosque in 2014 that Daesh’s self-proclaimed “caliph,” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, made his only public appearance as leader. His whereabouts are still unknown.
Kaabi, the Emirati minister, called on the international community “to unite to protect universal heritage sites, especially those in our Arab region” in theaters of conflict.
The Al-Nuri mosque is named after Nureddine Al-Zinki, who once ruled over Aleppo and Mosul and ordered the construction of the mosque in 1172.
Al-Habda, which maintained the same structure for nine centuries, was one of the only remnants of the original construction.
Decorated with geometric brick designs, the minaret was long a symbol of the city.
It was printed on 10,000 Iraqi dinar banknotes before it became a symbol of Daesh rule, when the militants planted their black flag at the top of its 45-meter spire.
“This is a historic partnership, the largest and unprecedented cooperation to rebuild cultural heritage in Iraq ever,” UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.
The first year of reconstruction will focus on documenting and clearing the site, UNESCO said.
The following four years will focus on the restoration and “faithful reconstruction” of the mosque, its minaret as well as the city’s historic gardens and open spaces.