Palestinian children ‘mistreated’ by Israel

Palestinian children ‘mistreated’ by Israel

Palestinian children ‘mistreated’ by Israel

An Israeli soldier arrests a Palestinian protester during clashes at Hawara checkpoint. UNICEF estimates that Israeli forces have arrested, interrogated and prosecuted around 7,000 children within 10 years. REUTERS photo

A new report from the United Nations children’s fund has revealed that Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military are subject to “widespread and systematic” ill-treatment that typically begins with the arrest itself and continues during court appearances.

In the 22-page report entitled “Children in Israeli Military Detention,” UNICEF said yesterday Israel was the only country in the world where children were “systematically tried” in military courts and gave evidence of what it called “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture.”

“Ill-treatment of Palestinian children appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized,” it said. Over the past decade, Israeli forces have arrested, interrogated and prosecuted around 7,000 children between 12 and 17, mostly boys, UNICEF found, noting the rate was equivalent to “an average of two children each day.” Figures from the end of January show that 233 children are being held in custody, 31 of them under the age of 16.

“Israel is the only place in the world where automatically, a child when he is under arrest, is put before a military tribunal,” said Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNICEF’s regional adviser on child protection. “It does exist in other countries [but] as an exception,” he said. “A child is a civilian.”

In response, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said officials from the ministry and the Israeli military had cooperated with UNICEF on the report, with the goal of improving the treatment. “Israel will study the conclusions,” he said.

Midnight raids

According to the report, ill-treatment of Palestinians typically begins with the arrest. Many children were being “aggressively awakened in the middle of the night by many armed soldiers.” “The pattern of ill-treatment includes ... the practice of blindfolding children and tying their hands with plastic ties, physical and verbal abuse during transfer to an interrogation site, including the use of painful restraints with little access to water, food or access to a toilet,” the report said.

It said minors, most of whom are arrested for throwing stones, suffer physical violence and threats during their interrogation, are coerced into confession and do not have immediate access to a lawyer or family. Most confess at the end of the interrogation, signing Hebrew forms that they hardly understand. Treatment inconsistent continues during court appearances. In hearings, the principal evidence against them is their own confession, which was “in most cases extracted under duress.” Although the maximum sentence for those aged 12-13 is six months, the penalty rises dramatically from 14 when a child can face a maximum penalty of between 10 and 20 years, it said.

However, the report noted some improvements, saying Israel had in 2010 brought in new rules on the use of hand ties and a year later raised the age of majority from 16 to 18, although the change does not relate to sentencing. It also noted as an improvement a military order given in 2010 that requires Israeli police to notify parents about the arrest of their children and to inform children that they have the right to consult a lawyer.

Compiled from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.