Detention of Palestinian Children
A Generation Scarred by the Israeli Occupation
Fact & Figures:
- More than 12,000 Palestinian children have been arbitrarily detained since 2000. Currently, approximately 350 Palestinian children remain in Israeli prisons and detention centers.
- Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes between 500 and 700 children in military courts each year. Since 2012, Israel has held an average of 204 Palestinian children in custody each month, according to data provided by the “Israel Prison Service”.
- Since the Trump Administration’s announcement on Jerusalem, Israel, the occupying power unlawfully detained about 562 Palestinian children.
- Palestinian children in Israeli detention centers are subject to torture as well as inhumane and degrading treatment. About 70% of detained Palestinian children reported they were subjected to physical violence during the time of their detention and some 65% reported verbal abuse.
- Most Palestinian child detained by the Israeli occupation suffers post-traumatic conditions and mental harm.
- Palestinian children in Israeli occupation detention and interrogation centers are threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault. In addition, they are exposed to threats of land confiscations, home demolitions, detention of parents or siblings and many other threats against themselves or a family member.
- These threats affect the Palestinian child, harms their mental health and coerces the children into confessing things he or she most likely did not commit but because they are intimidated.
- More than 40% of detained Palestinian children were violently arrested from their homes in the middle of the night. The arrest raids include violence against the children and his/her loved ones.
- Violent arrests violate two of the basic principles of the protection of the child: (1) the best interest of the child must be a primary concern in making decisions that affect them, and (2) children must only be deprived of their liberty as a last resort, for the shortest appropriate period of time.
- Palestinian children, like the rest of Palestinian detainees, are detained in Israeli detention centers outside the Occupied Palestinian Territory. This practice denies detainees regular family contact and visits and cause trauma to the detained child.
Israeli Occupation Military Juvenile Court system:
Israel, the occupying power, established in 2009 the first and only military juvenile court system in the world. The presence of such system serves to ensure the perpetuation of the widespread and systematic violations of Palestinian children rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Israel’s military courts deprive Palestinian detainees, including Palestinian children, of the legal and procedural safeguards and rights they are entitled to under International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law. Palestinian children are either shown or forced to sign, documents written in Hebrew, a language they do not understand. In 23% of the cases in 2013, Palestinian children were coerced to sign documents that include confessions of acts they did not commit. In Israeli civil courts, detention is always the last resort for minors. However, when it comes to Palestinian minors in Israeli military courts, prison is almost guaranteed. If a Palestinian child were convicted by the Israeli military court system of throwing stones, he could be sentenced up to 20 years in prison.
In most cases, Palestinian child detainees are denied bail during their trial. This coerces children and their parents into accepting plea bargains. Israel denies parents and lawyers the right to be present during the interrogation of their children. Trial hearings rarely conclude or reach the evidentiary process because most cases are closed in a coercive plea bargain between the defense and the prosecution. These bargains coerce Palestinian children into confessing things they have not committed to get a shorter sentence. Either way, the Palestinian child will not escape his fate of being unlawfully detained. According to the 2017 Human Rights Watch Report, the conviction rate of Palestinian children in the Israeli military court system is nearly 100%.
Israel has a systematic policy of mass detention, which also targets Palestinian children, as a way of maintaining its colonial regime and oppressing the Palestinian people. This policy, adopted and perpetrated by Israel, the occupying power, aims at dehumanizing the Palestinian people, especially children. Its overarching purpose is to produce a scarred and frightened generation of Palestinians.
The international community has a responsibility to end these illegal and inhumane policies and practices by the Israeli occupation. In particular, the Israeli military court system, which is part of the system of occupation of subjugation, must be exposed and condemned by States, governments, parliaments around the world as well as the UN system as a whole. This conveyer belt of convictions and oppression represents a machine that facilitates the colonial regime Israel has entrenched in Palestine. As such, States must also ensure that they are not aiding and/or abetting this unlawful discriminatory system directly or indirectly, including through financial or military aid.
The international community is obligated to provide protection for the Palestinian people, especially Palestinian children, in accordance with their duties to respect and ensure respect of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, treaties and principles that exist to ensure the protection of children and their well-being.
- Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association: Addameer, Imprisonment of Children, December 2017, available at: http://www.addameer.org/the_prisoners/children
- Defense for Children International- Palestine, No Way to Treat A Child: Palestinian Children in the Israeli Military Detention System, April 2016, available at: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/dcipalestine/pages/1527/attachments/original/1460665378/DCIP_NWTTAC_Report_Final_A pril_2016.pdf?1460665378
- According to the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs’ official statistics. 4 B’Tselem, Minors in Jeopardy: Violation of the Rights of Palestinian Minors by Israel’s Military Courts, Match 2018, available at: https://www.btselem.org/sites/default/files/publications/201803_minors_in_jeopardy_eng.pdf
- B’Tselem, Minors in Jeopardy: Violation of the Rights of Palestinian Minors by Israel’s Military Courts, Match 2018, available at: https://www.btselem.org/sites/default/files/publications/201803_minors_in_jeopardy_eng.pdf
- Human Rights Watch, Country Summary: Israel and Palestine, January 2018, available at: https://www.hrw.org/worldreport/2018/country-chapters/israel/palestine