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Home » Public statements »

The UNICEF Report - 7 years on

[6 March 2020] – In 2013 UNICEF published findings following a review of the treatment of children held in Israeli military detention. The report – Children in Israeli Military Detention – considered the treatment of children from arrest, transfer to interrogation centres, prosecution in military courts and ultimate incarceration. Following a review of over 400 affidavits, UNICEF concluded that “the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with [Israel’s] military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized.”

Following the release of the report and its 38 recommendations, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it would work to implement the recommendations through on-going cooperation with UNICEF. UNICEF undertook to continue monitoring the situation and to publish periodic updates reviewing progress made in implementing the report’s recommendations. In accordance with this undertaking UNICEF published progress reports in October 2013 and February 2015
 
Based on over 750 testimonies collected by Military Court Watch since the publication of the report the overwhelming majority of UNICEF’s recommendations remain substantially unimplemented and ill-treatment still appears to be “widespread, systematic and institutionalized” throughout the process. While there have been some positive developments during the intervening 7-years, these have been insufficient to significantly improve the underlying characteristics of the system observed by UNICEF in 2013. 
 
The following examples are provided by way of illustration (see also Comparative Graph – Issues of Concern (2013-2019)).
 
Night arrests – UNICEF recommended that children should only be arrested during daytime hours. This followed evidence that most children were being arrested at night in terrifying military raids on their homes. In 2013, 51 percent of children reported being arrested at night. Night arrests have now risen to 66 percent. A pilot scheme to use summonses in lieu of night arrests has not reduced the number of night arrests. 
 
Notification of arrest – UNICEF recommended that all children be notified of the reasons for arrest, at the time of arrest, and the child’s legal guardian be provided with a written statement in Arabic informing them of their legal rights. Currently, 62 percent of children arrested from home are not informed of the reasons for arrest and in no cases are parents being provided with information about their child’s legal rights. 
 
Hand ties and blindfolds – UNICEF recommended that the use of single plastic hand ties and blindfolds be prohibited in all circumstances involving children. This followed evidence that plastic hand ties were often painful and caused injury. In 2013, 96 percent of children reported being restrained with plastic ties and 81 percent blindfolded. Currently the use of hand ties remains unchanged at 96 percent while the use of blindfolds has risen to 91 percent.
 
Physical violence and threats – UNICEF re-stated the prohibition against physical violence and repeated guidance provided by the UN Committee Against Torture of prohibited practices, including: use of painful restraints and hooding; kicking, punching and beating with implements; and the use of threats. Currently, 56 percent of children report experiencing physical violence, including kicking and punching, and 69 percent report being threatened.
 
Legal rights – UNICEF recommended that children should only be questioned in the presence of a lawyer and family member after being informed of their right to silence. While no child is currently questioned in the presence of a lawyer, 64 percent of children continue to be denied access to a lawyer prior to interrogation and 78 percent report not being informed of their right to silence. Just 1 percent of children are questioned in the presence of a parent.  
 
Forcible transfer – UNICEF recommended that “in accordance with international law, all Palestinian children detained in the Israeli military detention system shall be held in facilities located in the occupied Palestinian territory”. This recommendation is based on Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. According to the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), 56 percent of Palestinian child detainees were transferred in March 2013. In 2020, this figure has risen to 75 percent.
 
On 20 December 2019, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) concluded her 5-year preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine and announced that “there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes have been or are being committed”. The matter is now before Pre-Trial Chamber I of the Court to determine jurisdiction.
 
MCW will continue to monitor developments.