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92 Australian MPs urge UNICEF to fulfil its reporting commitments on child detention

[21 January 2019] - 92 Australian Federal and State politicians have recently written to UNICEF’s Special Representative in Jerusalem urging the UN agency not to abandon an earlier commitment to publish periodic updates to its groundbreaking report – Children in Israeli Military Detention.

Following the release of the report in 2013, which concluded that “the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with [Israel’s] military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized”, UNICEF published two periodic bulletins in 2013 and 2015 (Bulletin No. 1 and Bulletin No. 2) in accordance with its commitment to provide “periodic updates on [UNICEF’s] engagement with the Israeli authorities on children in military detention and to report on actions taken.”
 
Following the publication of UNICEF’s second bulletin in 2015, which noted some positive developments but concluded that “reports of alleged ill-treatment of children have not significantly decreased,” the UN agency came under sustained criticism from an Israeli non-governmental organization with links to the former military prosecutor in the West Bank. Following this criticism UNICEF ceased producing further updates and in 2018 UNICEF’s Special Representative stated that there were “no firm plans to produce a third update”, in spite of the agency continuing to collect data from the field indicating widespread abuse.[i]
 
In response to queries, UNICEF’s Special Representative stated in 2018 that the agency continues to report on ill-treatment “through several types of publication”, however the alternative publications only contain between 1.6 and 10 percent of the content included in the periodic bulletins UNICEF committed to produce and include unrelated issues.[ii] Further, the alternative publications provide no information on “UNICEF’s engagement with the Israeli authorities” or “report on actions taken” which were the terms of UNICEF’s original reporting commitment. 
 
The recent letter from Australian politicians to UNICEF’s Special Representative concluded by stating that: “We appreciate that UNICEF is frequently called upon to work in many challenging environments, and would like to take this opportunity to thank you and your staff for the work you have done to shed light on this issue. We encourage you to continue this important work by continuing publication of these updates. As the international community continues to engage with all parties to the conflict seeking compliance with their international legal obligations, we feel that evidenced based reporting by UNICEF in the form of these periodic bulletins is essential.”
 
UNICEF’s 2013 report made 38 recommendations of which 1 has been substantially implemented by the military authorities after 6 years.