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UNICEF: Widespread and systematic abuse of children

[26 March 2024] – This month marks the 11th anniversary since UNICEF published the report - Children in Israeli Military Detention (2013) (The Report). Following an extensive review of Israel's military detention of Palestinian children arrested in the occupied West Bank, UNICEF 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, from the moment of arrest until the child's prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing."
UNICEF's report made 38 recommendations aimed at bringing Israel's military detention system closer into compliance with international law. At the time, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it would co-operate with UNICEF to implement the recommendations. However, shortly after providing this undertaking, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs appointed a resident of an illegal West Bank settlement to oversee the process, casting doubt on the bona fides of official Israeli government undertakings. 
During the intervening 11 years, Military Court Watch (MCW) has collected 1,126 testimonies from Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank. This body of evidence establishes that in most instances, the treatment of children has deteriorated since UNICEF published its report and the undertaking provided by Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to implement UNICEF's recommendations, remains unfulfilled.  The following examples are provided by way of illustration:
Night arrests - Following widespread concerns regarding the Israeli army's practice of arresting children from their homes in the middle of the night, UNICEF recommended that arrests should only occur during the day. At the time, 51 percent of children reported being arrested at night. Eleven years on, 58 percent of Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank continue to be arrested in terrifying night raids and taken away with little or no reasons provided to parents. A pilot scheme to issue summonses in lieu of night arrests is now defunct with the military authorities confirming that no records were kept to enable any official assessment of the scheme. Evidence
Torture and ill treatment - Since its inception on 7 June 1967, Israel's military detention system has been dogged by reports of torture and ill treatment. After reviewing evidence of widespread and systematic abuse, including: painful hand-tying; blindfolding; punching; slapping; kicking; and general neglect, UNICEF re-stated the absolute prohibition against such treatment included in the UN Convention Against Torture and recommended full legal accountability. At the time, 60 percent of detained children reported some form of physical violence. Eleven years on, 75 percent of Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank continue to report physical violence following their arrest. To date, there has been no domestic or international legal accountability. Evidence
Solitary confinement - Eleven years ago, UNICEF reported that some children reported being put in solitary confinement and, due to the well-documented detrimental impact, recommended a total prohibition of the practice. At the time, 4 percent of children reported being put in solitary confinement as part of their interrogation. Eleven years on, 17 percent of children currently report being held in solitary confinement for periods ranging between 2 - 45 days.  In 2021, the percentage rose to 42 percent. It should be noted that the general consensus is that placing children in solitary confinement violates the prohibition against torture. Palestinian children report self-harming and attempting suicide following periods in solitary confinement. Evidence
Unlawful transfer - Eleven years ago, UNICEF recommended that “in accordance with international law, all Palestinian children detained in Israeli military detention shall be held in the occupied Palestinian territory”. According to official Israeli data, 53 percent of Palestinian child detainees were transferred out of the occupied West Bank in 2013. Today, this figure has risen to 65 percent. It is estimated that up to 32,000 Palestinian children have been transferred since June 1967, without consequences. By way of contrast, it took the International Criminal Court just one year to issue arrest warrants for Russian officials involved in transferring "hundreds" of children from Ukraine to Russia. Evidence
Since 7 October 2023, a further significant deterioration in the treatment of Palestinian children held in Israeli military detention has been recorded, particularly inside prison. Children are reporting: increased levels of violence by prison guards including beatings with batons and attacks by service dogs; a lack of medical care; no family contact (either physical or by phone); no education; inadequate quantity and quality of food; no clean clothes; limited exercise; limited access to showers; no hot water; and no television or radio. It should also be noted that the children released in the prisoner exchange deal with Hamas in November 2023, were more than replaced in number by December 2023. Report
While the lack of progress in implementing UNICEF's recommendations continues to have a devastating impact on children in the occupied West Bank, the absence of any legal accountability, either domestic or international, confirms in the minds of a generation of children that an order based on "rules" is incapable of providing a solution. What fills this vacuum is unlikely to result in either peace or security for anyone.