Israel abuses Palestinian children, UN reports find

July 26, 2013

Since it was founded in 1948, the Israeli state has neglected the rights of Palestinian children, who have been deliberately ill-treated. Many Palestinian children have been killed, injured, jailed, tortured or used as human shields by Israel.

In attacks on Palestinian territory, Israeli forces have intentionally targeted playgrounds, schools and other areas frequented by children. Between September 2000 and April this year, the Israeli occupation forces killed 1518 Palestinian children. This is equivalent to one Palestinian child killed by the Israel army every three days for almost 13 years.

The number of Palestinian children injured by the Israeli military since September 2000 has reached 6000 — or four children injured every three days.

More than 9000 Palestinian children have been arrested, detained or jailed since September 2000. That’s six children jailed every three days.

These children have often been detained without charge and subject to abuse and mistreatment, including torture, by the Israeli army and prison officials.

Palestinian prisoner support group Addameer says most of these 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, threats and even sexual assault.

There are now 238 Palestinian children under the age of 18 being held in Israeli prisons. And 47 of these are under 16.

In March, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Report on Palestinian Children in Israeli Military Detention said: “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.”

After a growing 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 said 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 and security forces arrest about 700 youths aged between 12 to 17 years old each year, often from their homes at night. They are blindfolded, often painfully restrained, and subject to physical and verbal abuse while transferred to interrogation, where they are coerced into confessions without access to lawyers or family.

Also, children have been 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”.

In a report on Israel's treatment of children in June, 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 Palestinian children are routinely arrested by Israeli soldiers during night-time sweeps, with hands tied painfully and blindfolded. Israeli authorities then often also transfer youngsters to detention centres without 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 youth who have been held in Israeli jails.

The report estimated that 7000 children — mostly 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 obtained information from a variety of sources, including UNICEF and other UN bodies, military informants and Palestinian and Israeli rights groups. Israel did 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.”

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 groups stress that Israeli soldiers do not have the right to detain or arrest children under the age of 12, this often occurs in the occupied West Bank.

Addameer said a 12-year-old Palestinian child could be held by Israel for up to 18 months before trial, unlike an Israeli child of the same age, who cannot be legally held.

Violence has been mounting in the occupied West Bank as Israeli settlement building has risen, reaching a seven-year high according to the Peace Now group. With the rise 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, there was 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 frequently arrested indiscriminately and held in detention with little or no evidence.

These arrests are often used to deter Palestinian children from engaging in protests against the occupation. Palestinian children are also subject to attacks by Israeli forces and settlers daily.

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. Its soldiers and officials act with impunity, with those responsible for violence against children not held accountable.

The UN and various human rights groups have, over many years, documented many instances of abuse. But the international community has failed to act to protect or improve the situation of Palestinian children.

The world must demand 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 hollow statements without meaning, and offer no protection to the children of Palestine.

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