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Palestinian child prisoners

Introduction

Each year the Israeli military arrests and prosecutes an average of 700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12. On arrest, these children are subjected to ill-treatment at the hands of Israeli forces, with three out of four children experiencing physical violence during arrest or interrogation. Their usual ‘crime’: throwing stones in demonstrations against the occupying forces.

Arrest and detention: the psychological repercussions

Often arrested in the small hours of the morning, or even outside their schools, children are handcuffed and treated roughly. They are not allowed to be accompanied by their parents during the arrest or interrogation; the first time they see any family again is usually on the day of trial.

Some children even face solitary confinement during this period, with the longest recorded confinement lasting 68 days. Unsurprisingly, many of these children suffer depression and acute anxiety, which has led to various cases of self-mutilation and attempted suicide.

Life inside Israeli jail: a harsh reality for Palestinian children

International law requires states to have systems of juvenile justice which provide opportunities for education and training. Yet, in the case of Palestinians, Israel does not differentiate between juvenile and adult prisoners, often keeping young children in adult cells.

After sentencing, nearly 60% of convicted children are transferred from occupied territory to prisons inside Israel. This is in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of prisoners outside of occupied lands. By moving these children into territory imposing strict freedom of movement restrictions, very few Palestinian parents attain a permit to visit their children.

The military court system: denying the right to a fair trial

Since 1967, Palestinian children in the occupied Palestinian territory have been subject to Israeli military law. Israel is the only country in the world to automatically prosecute children in military courts which lack basic requirements for a fair trial.

While all detainees have the right to be represented by a lawyer, obstacles to non-Israeli lawyers visiting clients in prison means that, in most cases, there is no legal representation. The Israeli military court uses confessions often obtained through psychological torture or physical abuse, which are often read out to the ‘defendant’ child in a foreign language. In 23% of cases in 2013, children were either shown, or even made to sign, documents written in Hebrew, a language they do not understand.

The West Bank even operates two separate legal systems: one governing Palestinians (Israeli military law), and one governing the Israeli settlers (the Israeli civilian legal system). This means that the type of ‘law’ applied to an individual is determined solely by ethnicity. No single Israeli child comes into contact with the military court system which so disadvantages Palestinian children.

Conclusion

● Following arrest, Palestinian children often face violence, extended separation from their parents, isolation, coerced confessions and unlawful transfers.

● They are denied the right to a fair trial under the military court system and are often refused legal representation.

● In the case of the West Bank, Palestinian children are sentenced under a separate, far harsher legal system to the one used to sentence Israeli children.

Sources:

http://www.dci-palestine.org/issues_military_detention

http://nwttac.dci-palestine.org/

https://www.palestinecampaign.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/prisoners-factsheet-WEB-April-2013.pdf

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