Protect Palestinian child prisonersJuly 14, 2016, midnight
The Israeli occupation and Palestinian human rights
The Israeli occupation of what remains of historic Palestine has been ongoing for 50 years. The occupation affects all aspects of daily life. Every day the oppressive Israeli occupation restricts freedom of movement, separates families, humiliates, arrests and leaves Palestinians injured or killed.
50% percent of the entire Palestinian population is under 18. Palestinian children are acutely vulnerable and are exposed to violence and ill treatment by the Israeli occupying forces. There are currently 438 child prisoners held in Israeli prisons. 104 of them are under 16.The number of children arrested and placed under military detention has increased dramatically in recent months. This surge in arrests has doubled numbers of recent years.
Many children are detained for throwing stones or taking part in protests against Israeli soldiers. Other children are arrested when they try to cross at checkpoints to try and find work. The root cause of these protests is the entrenched military occupation of Palestinian land.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
Israel ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1991. This means it should uphold its obligations as set out in the CRC to abide by international conventions in the occupied Palestinian territories. This CRC prohibits the torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment of children. However, Israel does not abide by the CRC and there is much evidence to support this.
The Israeli government refuses to cooperate with a British delegation of lawyers in its review of Palestinian children in military custody. In 2011, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office funded an independent delegation of lawyers headed by The Rt. Hon Baroness Scotland and The Rt Hon Sir Stephen Sedley to visit occupied Palestine and Israel and report on Israeli military law and practice as they affect Palestinian children. Recommendations were made and the delegation was due to re-visit in March 2016 but the Israeli government were not prepared to cooperate and the review was cancelled. Click here for report
UNICEF Special Report on Palestinian Children in Military Detention
In 2013, a special report by UNICEF on Palestinian children in military detention found grave violations against children by the Israeli army. The working group found that children suffered high levels of mistreatment, including being needlessly blindfolded, painfully hand-tied, transported to detention on the floor of military vehicles, subjected to verbal abuse and physical violence during arrest, interrogation and detention, stripped searched and kept in solitary confinement. The working group also found children were often arrested during terrifying night raids by soldiers on family homes. They were seldom notified of their legal rights and, in many cases, were forced to sign confessions in Hebrew, a language most do not understand.
UNICEF has worked hard since 2013 to try and engage with the Israeli authorities to improve the protection of children in military detention in line with the international juvenile justice system but has made little progress. Click here for report
Israeli Illegal practices must stop
All the above-mentioned working groups highlighted the fact that Israel is not upholding its obligations under international law to treat Palestinian children in accordance with international juvenile norms, respecting the child’s dignity, worth and human rights. Quite the opposite is true and the brutal Israeli occupation is operating practices which have taken no heed of the findings of the independent delegation sent by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and UNICEF.
Administrative detention, that is, detention without charge or trial is still widely used to incarcerate Palestinian children. Moreover, many children are transported and imprisoned far from home, in Israel, rather than in the occupied territories, contravening the Geneva Convention. This makes it difficult for family to visit as they cannot get permits to cross checkpoints into Israel.
There is a blatant discriminatory framework in operation where Israeli children living in illegal settlements in occupied Palestine are treated under an entirely different legal system and tried in civilian courts whereas Palestinian children are tried by military courts. Also Israel has recently made amendments to its civil law to apply differently to Palestinians resident in Israel than to Israeli citizens. Under the new amendments they can arrest a Palestinian child as young as 12 whereas previously it was 14, impose much stricter sentences for stone-throwing and place Palestinian children under house arrest for a period 9 months, prohibiting them from attending school.
Terrifying night raids to arrest children
One of the most disturbing practices used by the Israeli occupying forces is arresting children in night raids in their homes. This is done to create maximum terror, confusion and fear. Israeli soldiers carry out night raids on homes when people are asleep and least expecting this invasive infringement of security and privacy. Children are aggressively awakened and torn away from their family.
As the British Labour MP Sarah Champion states in her article for the Huffington post, 63% of children are arrested at night in house raids and 58 per cent of children are strip-searched. Further, Military Court Watch (MCW) recorded that 51% of children arrested in 2013 were arrested at night, compared to 59% in 2015 and 54% so far in 2016. Accounts from soldiers from Breaking the Silence provide testimony that there is no other purpose to this practice except to demonstrate military presence and to punish and deter the Palestinian population.
35% of the children arrested in this way, are released without charge. Recommendations by working groups that court summons should be delivered to family homes rather than such raids have widely been ignored.
The recent report by Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights listed 736 military incursions in March and April 2016 and 114 children were arrested in this same time in night raids or at checkpoints.
These disturbing facts, substantiated by Palestinian, British and international organisations demonstrate that Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinian child prisoners is excessive and cruel.
Protect the Palestinian child
Evidence of Israeli violations included here and reports by Defence of Children International , Action 4 Palestinian Children and Addameer collectively provide irrefutable evidence that Palestinian children suffer greatly under Israeli occupation.
The arrest and incarceration of Palestinian children is just one form of abuse they suffer. They also suffer from settler violence, they are injured in protests against Israeli soldiers, displaced when their homes are demolished and have their education severely compromised by the practices of occupation. Most distressing and alarming is the number of Palestinian children killed in excessive use of force. The newly sanctioned use of live fire against demonstrators by the Israeli government has contributed to this spike in the death of Palestinian children. In the recent protests and incidents since October 2015 over 41 Palestinian children have been killed. A proportion of these have been classed as extrajudicial killings.
The British government and international community must renew their efforts, as a matter of great urgency, to stop Israel abusing the human rights of Palestinian children. Next week’s debate in the House of Lords on the well-being of Palestinian children is an opportunity to launch a new push to save the lives of Palestinian children and lessen their mistreatment under occupation and in Israeli military detention.
We urge the British government to persevere and send the delegation of lawyers back to Israel. It should spare no effort in trying to engage with the Israeli government to cooperate in reviewing the situation of Palestinian children in Israeli military custody and urge that the delagation's recommendations are fully implemented.