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Home » Public statements »

Australia: further correspondence regarding the forcible transfer of children

[23 January 2019] – On 2 December 2015, Military Court Watch (MCW) wrote to the Australian Representative Office in Ramallah concerning the legal obligations imposed on Australia under the Fourth Geneva Convention (the Convention) in relation to Israel’s decades long policy of transferring Palestinian detainees, including children, from the West Bank to prisons inside Israel.

Article 76 of the Convention prohibits the transfer and/or detention of protected persons outside occupied territory and Article 147 classifies such transfers and/or detentions as war crimes. This classification has also been adopted by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Article 146 of the Convention imposes certain legal obligations on third-party states to the Convention, including Australia, in relation to these violations.
 
On 27 March 2018, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) responded to MCW’s correspondence stating, inter alia, that Australia regularly makes representations to the Israeli Government concerning Palestinian minors in detention. However, the  correspondence did not address the issue raised in MCW’s correspondence relating to  what steps Australia is taking, or intends to take, in order to discharge its legal obligations under the Convention relating to forcible transfers.
 
On 8 November 2018, MCW sent a follow-up letter to DFAT again asking what specific steps has the Australian Government taken in accordance with its third-party state obligations under the Convention relating to forcible transfers.
 
On 18 December 2018, DFAT responded to MCW’s correspondence stating, inter alia, that “Australia takes seriously and complies fully with its international humanitarian obligations. Since your last correspondence … in March 2018, the Australian Government has continued to take steps to address forcible transfers of Palestinian minors from the West Bank.” The correspondence then lists a number of steps taken by the Australian Government unrelated to the forcible transfer of Palestinian minors from the West Bank.
 
MCW will seek further clarification from DFAT as to the nature of the steps taken by the Australian Government before and after March 2018 “to address forcible transfers of Palestinian minors from the West Bank” consistent with its legal obligations. Meanwhile, according to data released by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), 100 Palestinian children (49 percent of child detainees) were transferred and/or detained outside the West Bank in December 2018.