Date of birth: 14 December 1992
Date of arrest: 23 April 2010
Age at arrest: 17
Place of residency: Azzoun village, Qalqilya
Place of detention: Megiddo Prison, Section 10
Postal address: Beit Soher Megiddo Prison, Megiddo, P.O. Box 2424, via Israel
Total number of days spent in detention before trial: 300
At 12:30 a.m. on 23 April 2010, the Israeli military raided Azzoun village near Qalqilya, where they conducted a number of unlawful home searches and eventually entered Ahmed Isleem’s family home. The soldiers did not present a search or arrest warrant. Instead, they ordered Ahmed to “shut up” when he tried to challenge their authority. The entire family was forced into one room while the soldiers proceeded to carry out a thorough search, allegedly for a weapon, ransacking the family’s property, including a television set, and items of religious and political value. They ordered Ahmed to get dressed, and then shackled and blindfolded him and threw him into a military jeep and drove off. In the jeep, the soldiers slapped Ahmed, hit him in the head and continuously humiliated the boy by ordering him to sit up and down, without any reason or justification.
The military jeep eventually arrived at the police station sometime between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. The soldiers ordered Ahmed, still blindfolded and cuffed with his hands behind his back, to sit on the cold ground. He was kept in this position until 12 noon. when the soldiers finally took him to see a doctor for a basic medical examination before transferring him to Huwwara Detention Center, near the West Bank city of Nablus. In an affidavit given to Addameer attorneys on 17 June 2010, Ahmed reports: “We arrived at about 1:00 p.m. Once there, they [the soldiers] forced me to stand in the street near the gate for four hours in the sun. Whenever I tried to sit on the ground, one of them would stop me with force. More than once I asked for water, but they refused."
TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT DURING INTEROGGATION
Ahmed was subjected to numerous means of physical and psychological torture and ill-treatment while under interrogation, including threats of rape and killing, use of painful stress positions, physical violence, sleep deprivation, and isolation. The ill-treatment began almost immediately upon his transfer to Jalameh detention and interrogation center. In Jalameh, Ahmed was held in cell 34, which he describes as windowless, measuring only 1.5 by 2 meters and containing nothing but a mattress and a Turkish toilet, falling short of acceptable hygiene standards.
Threats of rape and killing
The first interrogation session began at 8:00 p.m. that same evening and lasted close to nine consecutive hours, ending at 5:00 a.m. the next morning. During this entire time Ahmed’s hands were shackled to the chair while his legs were tied together. Ahmed reports that he was questioned by at least five interrogators on rotating shifts who asked him general questions as opposed to questions related to specific events. They also continuously pressured him to confess.
Ahmed was given only four hours of rest until he was taken interrogation for a second time, at 9:00 a.m. on 24 April. The second interrogation session lasted a total of six hours. When Ahmed continued to deny the interrogators’ allegations, questions were followed by threats. Ahmed reports that at one point the Israeli Security Agency Area Officer, Captain Shukri, who was present during Ahmed’s arrest, also joined the interrogation and threatened the boy with physical torture, rape and even killing. “This Captain Shukri told me to confess before he breaks me like he broke our house. He also said that he would practice indecent acts with me, that he will “f*** me in the ass”, and that he will kill me even if it takes him until the last day of his life to do so."
Shackling during continuous interrogation sessions
The third interrogation session lasted a total of twelve consecutive hours, from 4:00 p.m. on 24 April until 4:00 a.m. on 25 April. At that point, the interrogators seemed to have abandoned their tactics of intimidation and threats, and instead had adopted a strategy of physical and mental exhaustion by depriving Ahmed of sleep, making him sit in the interrogation room in the same position for several hours at a time with his hands tied behind his back, and asking only general questions about his willingness to confess. In a report published in 2009, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) argued that “security detainees” in Israel are systematically shackled for “invalid and irrelevant reasons, which include causing pain and suffering, punishment, intimidation, and illegally eliciting information and confessions”.
Ahmed was given eight hours of rest and the marathon started once again. The fourth interrogation session lasted six hours, from 12:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. on 25 April 2010, and was followed by yet another session starting at 6:30 p.m. that same evening and ending at 5:00 a.m. on 26 April. When Ahmed, who was neither accompanied by a parent or by his attorney, attempted to question the legality of the exhausting night time interrogation sessions, “he [the interrogator] laughed and said that he gets paid 1234.30 NIS per hour, so he is actually benefiting from the situation“.
On the fifth day, the interrogation police questioned Ahmed again for about 13 consecutive hours and informed him that he was being charged with firing a weapon. The interrogators also informed Ahmed that they were in possession of satellite photos of the event and that they had arrested Ahmed’s friends Sabra Isleem and Ahmed Abu Haniyeh, who they claimed had apparently confessed to firing at Israeli settlers. When Ahmed continued to deny the allegations, one of the interrogators, a very tall man with brown hair, lost his temper after about ten hours of interrogation and began insulting and directing threats at Ahmed. He then started punching Ahmed in the face and hitting him on the head. Ahmed recalls, “He [the interrogator] said that he was crazy, and he started throwing blows at my face and my head. He held a kind of thick iron sheet and he hit me with it three or four times on my head from behind. I felt dizzy and saw stars above me. My vision became blurry, but I did not lose consciousness. Around 5a.m., they took me back to the cell."
Once in the cell, Ahmad realized that his head was bleeding following the injury that he sustained at the hands of the interrogator. In an affidavit given to Addameer attorneys, Ahmed reports that he subsequently fainted. He also reports having fainted more than once that day, but does not recall having received any medical treatment. Instead, he was continuously taken back to the interrogators’ room for more questioning.
After an entire week, throughout which Ahmed continued to deny the allegations despite torture and ill-treatment, the interrogators started questioning him every two days, at times during the afternoon, but occasionally also during the night.
Ill-Treatment in Israeli Collaborators’ Cells
Ahmed was kept in isolation for twenty days after which he was transferred to a different cell holding seven other detainees that he suspects were Israeli collaborators. Torture and ill-treatment in such cells is widespread and known to occur in some sections of Israeli prisons and detention centers, where detainees are often beaten, punched, threatened and exposed to psychological pressure if they refuse to talk to other prisoners who are detained in the same cells and who are typically collaborating with Israeli military authorities. Indeed, immediately after Ahmed’s transfer, the other detainees started questioning the boy about the kind of military activities he might have committed. When Ahmed answered that he was not guilty of anything and that he was just hunting for birds, all seven detainees attacked him. They reportedly took a towel and wrapped it around the boy’s neck. When an Israeli guard intervened, the other detainees claimed that Ahmed wanted to strangle himself. According to Ahmed’s account, the guard saw everything that happened, but instead of helping him when he complained, he answered, “No harm. Good, good. This is what we want," suggesting that the attack was coordinated by the interrogators and detention center authorities. Immediately afterwards, the guard took Ahmed, exhausted and petrified, to Israeli police officers who had prepared a statement in Hebrew and asked the boy to sign it, which he did.
Use of stress position over the course of nine days
Torture continued for nine days after the forced confession. After Ahmed signed the statement, he was taken to section 3 of the prison and placed in a cell big enough only to fit a mattress. The guards then chained both his legs and arms to metal bars, located on each wall. Ahmed recalls, “To these bars they chained me with metal chains, each hand to opposite direction and each leg to opposite direction." Ahmed reports that he was left in this position all night.
The following day, the stress position continued in a bigger cell, which only accentuated the pain as Ahmed’s arms were chained slightly higher than previously, forcing him to exercise his muscle strength whenever he tried to relieve himself from the position. His blood circulation would also get cut off whenever he relaxed his muscles. Ahmed reports that interrogators repeatedly came to his cell and beat him on his stomach and hands. The pain was only interrupted during short meal breaks, one bathroom break every morning, and short 15-30 minute interrogation sessions where the interrogators kept insisting that the only way the torture would end is if Ahmed confessed to shooting at settlers. Ahmed remembers the entire experience as a period of disorientation, anxiety and vulnerability. He reports that he constantly screamed during the nine days asking guards to unchain him due to the unbearable pain. Whenever he would scream a lot, the guards would open the cell door and use a spray which would make him lose consciousness. Ahmed reports that he lost all sense of time perception, and relied completely only on the information given to him by the guards and interrogators during these days.
On the ninth day of the stress position, Ahmed eventually signed a second confession in which he stated, as instructed by the interrogation police officers, that he and his friends Sabra and Ahmed fired at Israeli settlers on two occasions; the first time from a distance of 10 meters and the second time from a distance of 50 meters. Ahmed still denies all charges against him and insists that he agreed to sign the confession only to end the pain: “After the ninth day of being shackled to the bed, I told the interrogator that I was ready to sign any confession he wanted just to end this horrible suffering."
TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT AFTER FILING COMPLAINT
On 25 August 2010, Addameer filed a complaint to the Israeli Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General calling for a thorough and impartial criminal investigation into the conduct of the interrogators who tortured and abused Ahmed Isleem during his detention at the Jalameh detention and interrogation center. Addameer called the Israeli Ministry of Justice to investigate the treatment of Ahmed by the Israeli interrogators, including the beating, threats, the use of solitary confinement over the course of 40 days and the use of a stress position for nine consecutive days, and asked for those responsible for his torture and ill-treatment to be investigated and prosecuted.
Use of stress position after the complaint
In an affidavit given to Addameer attorney Samer Sam’an on 23 December 2010 Ahmed reported the continued torture and ill-treatment he was subjected to after filing the complaint. Shortly after Ahmed signed the complaint, unrest broke out in the section of the prison where he is being held and Ahmed and another detainee were singled out by the prison administration. Ahmed was taken to another section of the prison and placed in a cell only big enough to fit a mattress, and he was told that he would be held in solitary confinement for seven days. During this period Ahmed was rarely provided with drinking water.
On the fifth day of solitary confinement, after asking the guards for some water, the guards chained both his legs and arms to metal bars, located on each wall. Ahmed reports that he was left in this stress position for the next two days and was only allowed a short one hour break once a day.
Interrogations and ill-treatment after the complaint
Soon after filing the complaint Ahmed was transferred to Ramleh Prison for interrogation. During the transport from Megiddo prison to Ramleh prison Ahmed was exposed to continuous intimidations and threats.
The first interrogation session occurred in mid September 2010 in Ramleh prison. Ahmed reports that he was questioned by three interrogators. Aside from the prison guard, all men introduced themselves as police inspectors and wore civilian clothes. Ahmed was asked to state the reason for his complaint and give details of what happened during the first days following his arrest. As Ahmed was giving details of his torture and ill-treatment, one of the interrogators, a man of medium height and dark complexion in civilian clothes, lost his temper and began insulting and directing threats at Ahmed. Ahmed reports “he told me that I am a liar and, according to information they have, he already knew thatI am lying.And he also told me that it’s for my benefit to drop the complaint and if I do so, the court will show lenience and I will be sentenced to only 10 months, and I will have all the benefits during my time in prison.” Other interrogators including the prison guard also continuously pressured Ahmed to drop the complaint. When Ahmed refused to change his statement, “bargaining” was followed by threats. Ahmed reports “They told me if I do not accept this 'compromise' they will me send me to the prison for a long time.” Finally, after two hours of pressure and threats Ahmed was escorted to the prison cell.
The following day Ahmed was transported back to Megiddo prison. In an affidavit given to Addameer attorney on 23 December 2010, Ahmed reports “the conditions during the transport were harsh and it lasted from 7 in morning until 8 in the evening.”
Ahmed was taken for interrogation for the second time at the beginning of November 2010. He was told that he will be meeting with his lawyer; instead he was questioned by a man who introduced himself as an employee of Israel’s Ministry of Justice. Ahmed was asked to state the reasons for his complaint and give an account of the first few days of his detention at the Jalameh detention and interrogation center. After only 10 minutes Ahmed was forced to stop giving the statement as the interrogator left the room without any explanation. Ahmed was left to wait, and after one hour was returned by the prison guard to his cell.
The third interrogation session took place in Megiddo prison at the beginning of December 2010, again with a member of staff from the Ministry of Justice who was wearing civilian clothes. Ahmed reports that “He was asking me what did the soldiers do during my arrest and where did they take me after I have been arrested. Suddenly he got nervous and told me that I am a liar.” This interrogation session lasted for 15 minutes, after which Ahmed was told that he must sign a statement. Ahmed complied with these orders, although the statement was written in Hebrew, which he doesn’t speak.
Despite all the repeated pressure and threats Ahmed maintains his innocence and hopes that his complaint will make a difference: “my complaint is not only about violation of my rights, it affected me but also affects all prisoners. The fact that Israeli authorities did not investigate my complaint is a violation in itself.”
Addameer condemns Ahmed’s torture and ill-treatment at the hands of Israeli authorities as a violation of absolute prohibitions against these measures in international law, violations that are made all the more heinous due to Ahmed’s young age. The treatment of Ahmed by the Israeli interrogators, including the beating, threats, the use of solitary confinement and the use of a stress position falls within the definition of torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as defined in the UN Convention Against Torture, to which Israel is a State Party.
Moreover, Addameer remains very concerned about the legitimacy of Ahmed’s ongoing trial before the Israeli military courts, including the use of the forced confession as primary evidence by the prosecution. It remains clear that these courts operate in blatant disregard for fundamental international fair trial standards and lack any sort of meaningful protection for child detainees. Addameer therefore calls for the charges against Ahmed to be dropped immediately, and for those responsible for his torture and ill-treatment to be investigated and prosecuted.
On 25 August 2010, Addameer filed a complaint to the Israeli Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General calling for a thorough and impartial criminal investigation into the conduct of the interrogators who tortured and abused Ahmed Isleem.
Here is how you can help Ahmed Isleem:
- Send Ahmed letters of support to his postal address in prison
- Write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that Ahmed Isleem be released immediately and that the charges against Ahmed be immediately dropped, and for those responsible for his torture and ill-treatment to be investigated and prosecuted
- Write to your own elected representatives urging them to pressure Israel to release Ahmed Isleem and to put an end to such an unjust, arbitrary and cruel system of incarceration without trial.