UK lawyers' report - 7-years on
[26 June 2019] – This month marks 7 years since a delegation of UK lawyers reviewed the treatment of Palestinian children under Israeli military law and published their findings and recommendations.[i] The Foreign Office funded report – Children in Military Custody – found undisputed evidence that the military detention system violates at least 6 articles under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and 2 articles under the Fourth Geneva Convention.[ii] The report concluded by making 40 recommendations.
Following the launch of the report, the Israeli Embassy in London issued a press release: “A wide range of senior Israeli officials met with the delegation and openly shared Israel’s dilemmas on these issues. Israel, as an open society, has an ongoing dialogue with civil society representatives in Israel and from the international community, including the UK. Israel notes the detailed recommendations in the report and will study them closely as part of its ongoing efforts to find the most appropriate balance between preventing violence and treating perpetrators with humanity.”
In the immediate years following the report there were a number of positive developments in the system including: a new military order reducing the time within which a child must be brought before a judge following arrest; the introduction of a form notifying parents of the reason for arrest and place of detention; re-issuance of the military’s standard operating procedures for the arrest of children to all military units serving in the West Bank; the introduction of a form notifying children of their legal rights; and a pilot scheme to issue summonses in lieu of night arrests.
With the full support of the Foreign Office the delegation sought to return to Israel/Palestine in February 2016 in order to review progress in implementing the report’s recommendations.[iii]
However, several days before the delegation was due to arrive in Tel Aviv they were informed that the Israeli government was unwilling to engage with the lawyers and as a result the trip was cancelled. The delegation issued a statement
saying they would prepare a brief updating report on the 40 recommendations and would welcome the opportunity to meet with Israeli officials in the future.
MCW has reviewed progress made in implementing the report’s 40 recommendations and concludes that 1 recommendation has been substantially implemented in 7 years – an implementation rate of 2.5 percent. According to the latest evidence: 52 percent of children continue to be arrested at night; 95 percent are handtied; 91 percent blindfolded; 69 percent report physical abuse; 82 percent are not informed of their right to silence; 74 percent do not have access to a lawyer prior to interrogation; and 46 percent continue to be forcibly transferred from the West Bank to prisons in Israel in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The original delegation was comprised of 9 lawyers: Greg Davies, Jayne Harrill, Marianna Hildyard QC, Judy Khan QC, Jude Lanchin, Marc Mason, Frances Oldham QC, the Rt Hon the Baroness Patricia Scotland of Asthal QC (former Shadow Attorney General and Attorney General of England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Rt Hon Sir Stephen Sedley (formerly Lord Justice Sedley).
The report found that Israel’s military child detention system violates at least 6 articles under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:
(i) Article 2 – discrimination;
(ii) Article 3 – best interests;
(iii) Article 37(b) – premature resort to detention;
(iv) Article 37(c) – non-separation from adults;
(v) Article 37(d) – prompt access to lawyers;
(vi) Article 40 – use of shackles.
The report also found that Israel will be in breach of the prohibition on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in Article 37(a) of the Convention if multiple reports of ill-treatment are, to a significant extent, correct. The report further found that transportation of child prisoners into Israel is in breach of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the failure to translate Military Order 1676 from Hebrew is a violation of Article 65 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
With some members of the original delegation unavailable for the trip, additional members joined the group, including: Lord Falconer (former Lord Chancellor); Sir Mark Hedley (formerHigh Court Judge of the Family Division); Sir Keir Starmer QC MP (former Director of Public Prosecutions), Paul Storey QC (Children Law Barrister and Deputy High Court Judge); and Martha Cover (Children Law Barrister and Association of Lawyers for Children).