Amnesty demands Israel release soldier-slapping Palestinian teen

As 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi appears in court, human rights group calls continued detention and indictment ‘blatantly disproportionate’

Ahed Tamimi (C) attends a hearing at the Ofer military court in the West Bank on December 28, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)
Ahed Tamimi (C) attends a hearing at the Ofer military court in the West Bank on December 28, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)

Amnesty International on Monday demanded that Israel release a 16-year-old Palestinian teenager who faces assault charges after she was filmed slapping and shoving IDF soldiers last month in her West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.

The human rights organization slammed Ahed Tamimi’s detention as she appeared in court Monday.

“Nothing that Ahed Tamimi has done can justify the continuing detention of a 16-year-old girl. The Israeli authorities must release her without delay. In capturing an unarmed teenage girl’s assault on two armed soldiers wearing protective gear, the footage of this incident shows that she posed no actual threat and that her punishment is blatantly disproportionate,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty.

“Ahed Tamimi’s ensuing arrest and military trial exposes the Israeli authorities’ discriminatory treatment of Palestinian children who dare to stand up to ongoing, often brutal, repression by occupying forces,” she added.

Footage from the December 15 encounter in Nabi Saleh, taken by Ahed’s mother, Nariman, shows the teenager and her cousin Nour approaching two Israeli soldiers, then shoving, kicking, and slapping them, while filming on their cellphones.

On January 1, the Judea Military Court charged Ahed Tamimi and her mother with aggravated assault of soldiers.

The indictment against the teenager cited a total of 12 counts, which included five other altercations with IDF soldiers that she was alleged to have engaged in over the past two years.

Among the charges against Ahed were aggravated assault of a soldier, threatening a soldier, preventing soldiers from carrying out their duties, incitement, disturbing the public peace and stone-throwing.

The incitement charge refers to a statement given by Ahed to her mother, who was filming the December 15 incident on Facebook Live.

“I hope that everyone will take part in the demonstrations as this is the only means to achieve the result,” she said. “Our strength is in our stones, and I hope that the world will unite to liberate Palestine, because [Donald] Trump made his declaration and [the Americans] need to take responsibility for any response that comes from us,” Ahed added, apparently referring to the US president’s decision last month to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine,” she concluded.

While Nariman was also charged with aggravated assault, footage from the incident did not appear to show the mother doing anything beyond pushing the soldiers off the family’s property.

Amnesty International logo
Amnesty International logo

In its statement, Amnesty cited the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a state party, as saying that the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child must be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.

“Israel is clearly, brazenly flouting its obligations under international law to protect children from overly harsh criminal punishments,” said Mughrabi.

“It would be an unconscionable travesty of justice if Ahed Tamini’s act of defiance in the face of relentless oppression earns her a long prison sentence after a trial in a military court that does not ensure basic fair trial standards,” she said.

Nabi Saleh, 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Ramallah, has been a frequent staging ground for clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians, specifically members of the Tamimi family, which has a history of involvement in highly publicized clashes with the IDF.

Videos of the December 15 incident were widely picked up by Israeli media, which often accuse Palestinian protesters of seeking to provoke the army into responses, to be filmed.

A poster in support of Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi seen at a London bus stop in January 2017. (Jewish News via Twitter)

Ahed Tamimi has since become a cause célèbre and rallies have been held in several locations calling for her release, including a demonstration in Paris on Thursday.

Some Israeli politicians hailed the restraint of the soldiers as evidence of the military’s values, while others called for tough responses in the face of seeming humiliation.

In 2012, Ahed gained fame among Palestinian activists for an incident in which she led a group of children, including her younger brother, in arguing with Israeli soldiers. In a video of the incident, she can be seen repeatedly raising her balled fist at a soldier, poised to hit him, but never actually doing so.

Ahed first appeared before the Ofer Military Court on December 19. Explaining her decision to remand her at the time, Judge Lidor Drachman of the Judea region Juvenile Military Court said that while she did not pose any danger, concern that the teen would try to obstruct the investigation justified keeping her locked up.

AFP contributed to this report.

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