UNICEF falls silent 5-years after the release of its child detention report
[6 March 2018] - This month marks 5 years since UNICEF published the report - Children in Israeli Military Detention - which concluded that "the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process”.
Following the release of the report and its 38 recommendations, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it would “study the conclusions and work to implement them through on-going cooperation with UNICEF”. In accordance with this commitment the Ministry appointed the then military prosecutor in the West Bank, Lt. Col. Maurice Hirsch, as the "focal point for dialogue with UNICEF", although as a resident
of an illegal West Bank settlement this appointment was highly problematic.
During the immediate period following the release of the report there were a number of developments
in the system relevant to the treatment of children. These developments were documented in two updates published by UNICEF: Bulletin No. 1
(October 2013) and Bulletin No. 2
(February 2015). While both bulletins noted positive developments, UNICEF ultimately concluded that "reports of alleged ill-treatment of children during arrest, transfer, interrogation and detention have not significantly decreased in 2013 and 2014."
While there was every expectation that UNICEF would release a third bulletin, no updates have been published by the UN agency in 3 years. UNICEF has yet to release an explanation for this silence in circumstances where it continues to collect significant quantities of evidence from the field for inclusion in its database and other evidence
suggests that conditions for children in military detention have not substantially improved.
In November 2016, Lt. Col. Hirsch retired as military prosecutor in the West Bank and took up a consultancy position with the non-governmental organisation, NGO Monitor, an entity that focuses on NGOs and UN agencies monitoring Israel’s activities in occupied territory. Since Hirsch’s retirement Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to appoint a replacement dialogue officer and progress in implementing UNICEF’s 38 recommendations has stalled.
In 2017, MCW conducted a review
of progress made in implementing UNICEF's 38 recommendations and concluded that 1 recommendation has been substantially implemented - an implementation rate of 2.6 percent. Since UNICEF published its report in March 2013, the number of children held in Israeli military detention has, according to official data
, increased by 49 percent and reports
of physical abuse have risen from 60 to 65 percent. This is no time to be silent.