'The child shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation.' The Declaration of the Rights of the Child, section of article 1, adopted by the United Nations in 1959.
Since its imposition in Palestine, the Israeli state had not only neglected the rights of the child, but has deliberately and badly ill-treated Palestinian children. Numerous Palestinian children have been killed, injured, imprisoned, tortured and used as human shields by Israel. And Israeli forces have intentionally targeted playgrounds, schools and other areas frequented by children for attacks. In the period between September 2000 and April 2013, the Israeli occupation forces killed 1,518 Palestinian children. This is equivalent to one Palestinian child killed by the Israel army every 3 days for almost 13 years. As well, the number of Palestinian children injured by the Israeli military since September 2000, has reached 6,000, which amounts to four children injured every three days. The number of Palestinian children arrested, detained and imprisoned since September 2000, is over 9,000. That’s six children imprisoned every 3 days. These children have often been detained and held as prisoners without charge and subject to abuse and mistreatment, including torture, by the Israeli army and prison officials.
According to the Palestinian prisoner support organization Addameer, the majority of children report being subjected to ill-treatment and having confessions extracted from them during interrogations. Forms of ill-treatment used by Israeli soldiers include, slapping, beating, kicking, violent pushing, as well as sexual assault and threats. There are currently (as of July, 2013) 238 Palestinian children under the age of 18 years being held in Israeli prisons. And 47 of these are under 16 years of age.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Report on Palestinian Children in Israeli Military Detention.
It is understood that in no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights. All children persecuted for offenses they allegedly committed should be treated in accordance with international juvenile justice standards, which provide them with special protection. - UNICEF Report, March 2013.
Following an increasing number of allegations of ill-treatment of children in Israeli military detention, UNICEF conducted a review of Israeli military practices related to Palestinian children. The main report was based on 400 cases documented since 2009. It stated that the Palestinian children who were detained by Israeli military are subjected to “widespread, systematic and institutionalised” ill-treatment in violation of international law. UNICEF estimated that in the West Bank Israeli military forces and security forces annually arrest around 700 youths between the ages of 12 to 17 years old, often from their homes at night. They are blindfolded, painfully restrained, and subject to physical and verbal abuse while being transferred to interrogation, where they are coerced into confessions without access to lawyers or family. Additionally, children are shackled during court appearances and made to serve sentences in Israel. UNICEF stated these findings, “amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture.”
Another U.N. Report Condemns Israeli Mistreatment of Palestinian Children.
In a report on Israeli treatment of children in June 2013, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child condemned Israel’s army and police for a range of human rights abuses against Palestinian children. The body expressed its 'deepest concern about the reported practices of torture, and ill-treatment of Palestinian children arrested, persecuted and detained by the military and police.'
The report said that Palestinian children are routinely arrested, by Israeli soldiers during nighttime sweeps, with hands tied painfully and blindfolded. Israeli authorities then often also transfer youngsters to detention centres with informing their parents. The detained Palestinian children then regularly subjected to, 'physical and verbal violence, humiliation, painful restrains... (were) threatened with death, physical violence, and sexual assault against themselves or members of the family,' according to the report.
As well as spotlighting abuses in the occupied territories, the UN committee also expressed grave concern at the high number of Palestinian youngsters who have been held in Israeli jails. The report estimated that 7,000 children aged from 12-17 years of age, but some as young as nine, had been arrested, interrogated and detained since 2002- an average of two a day. It stated that dozens of children aged between 12 and 15 are being held in Israeli detention centres.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child had obtained information from a variety of sources, including UNICEF and other UN bodies, military informants and Palestinian and Israeli rights groups. Israel had not co-operated with the UN committee on requests for information on the issue and rejected the report. The committee said.
These crimes are perpetrated from the time of arrest, during transfer and interrogation, to obtain a confession, but also on an arbitrary basis as testified by several Israeli soldiers as well as during pre-trial detention.
Israel Continually Violates International Law on the Rights of Children.
In 2012, the Guardian newspaper reported on a Defence for Children International statement on Palestine that said, Palestinian children are often arrested at night, handcuffed, blindfolded, abused and not given access to family or legal representation. The Guardian further reported, that Palestinian children are locked in solitary confinement for days, or even weeks and sometimes sign confessions that they later say were coerced. Signed confessions are typically typed in Hebrew, which few Palestinians, especially minors can read.
The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, said the treatment of Palestinian children violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Forth Geneva Convention. Although humanitarian organisations stressed that Israeli soldiers do not have the right to detain or arrest children under the age of 12 years old, this regularly occurs in the occupied West Bank. Addameer, the Palestinian prisoner support and human rights organization, says that a 12 year old Palestinian child can be held for up to 18moths before trial, unlike a 12 year old Israeli child who cannot be legally held.
Violence has been mounting in the occupied West Bank as Israeli settlement construction has increased, reaching a seven year high according to the Peace Now group. With the increase and expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, comes the confiscation of more Palestinian land, the destruction of their homes, olives and citrus groves and crops, creating more antagonism and conflict. Last year (2012) saw an unprecedented rise in the number of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces. Addameer reported that an average of 200 children were arrested and detained each month. Most children were arrested after being accused of throwing stones at Israeli occupation forces or settlers, an offence that can carry a 20 year sentence. But children in high conflict areas of the West Bank are regularly arrested indiscriminately and remanded in detention with little or no evidence. These arrests are often used to deter Palestinian children from engaging in protests against the occupation. And Palestinian children are also subject to attacks by Israeli forces and settlers on a daily basis and face harsh reaction if they fight back.
Despite Israel ratifying international human rights treaties, it consistently breaks these international human rights laws, with Israeli military and prison ill-treatment of against Palestinian children being both widespread and systematic. Israel continues to carry out systematic human rights violations against Palestinian children and its soldiers and officials act with total immunity, with those responsible for violence against children not held accountable.
The UN and various human rights organizations have over many years documented numerous instances of abuse, but the UN and the rest of the international community has failed to act to protect or improve the situation of Palestinian children. The human rights organisations must urge the international community to assert its responsibilities towards the rights of vulnerable children and stop Israeli abuses and enforce Israeli compliance with human rights laws. The world community must demand that Israel end its abuse of Palestinian children and respect their fundamental human rights. Otherwise the words in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child are but hollow statements without any meaning or substance and offer no justice or protection to the children of Palestine or elsewhere.
- Raising awareness of this issue around the world will help put an end to Israel’s abuse of the children of Palestine. For more information on the campaign to free the children of Palestine contact- Addameer, The Palestinian Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Samidoun, The Palestine Solidarity Network.