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Home » Public statements »

The EU responds to the question of the forcible transfer of children

[1 November 2018] – On 7 December 2015 and 1 February 2018, Military Court Watch (MCW) wrote to the Embassy of the European Union in Tel Aviv concerning Israel’s policy of transferring Palestinian child detainees from the West Bank to prisons located inside Israel in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (the Convention). 

On 26 September 2018, the EU responded stating, inter alia, that: “The issue of Palestinian prisoners in detention in Israel has been regularly addressed by the European Union (EU) with Israel through normal diplomatic channels. The EU has been repeatedly and consistently calling upon Israel to respect its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law.” 
 
The absolute prohibition against the forcible transfer of protected persons, including detainees, out of occupied territory was inserted in the Convention following the European experience during the Second World War when, in the words of the commentary to the Convention, “millions of human beings were torn from their homes, separated from their families and deported from their country, usually under inhumane conditions.” The absolute prohibition applies regardless of the number of individuals transferred or whether the transfers are being conducted humanely or otherwise.
 
Israel’s policy of forcibly transferring Palestinian prisoners out of occupied territory commenced shortly after June 1967 and is considered sufficiently serious under international law to be classified as a war crime under Article 147 of the Convention and Article 8(2)(a)(vii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The policy affects approximately 6,000-7,000 Palestinian men, women and children each year and is continuing on a daily basis.
 
While Israel’s Supreme Court has twice rejected petitions seeking an end to this policy in accordance with the State’s international legal obligations, the military authorities still rely on Article 66 of the Convention as the legal basis upon which Palestinian civilians, including children, continue to be prosecuted in military courts 51 years after they were established on 7 June 1967.
 
MCW has sent similar correspondence to all EU member states as well as Norway, US, Canada and Australia. Responses have so far been received from the USNorwayCanadaNetherlands and Australia. In no case has a respondent acknowledged the existence of third partly legal obligations under the Convention.