1,000 testimonies and counting
[14 November 2022] – Since UNICEF concluded nearly 10 years ago that the ill-treatment of children held in Israeli military detention "appears to be widespread, systematic and instutionalized", Military Court Watch (MCW) has collected over 1,000 testimonies from detained minors. This is what the evidence shows:
Systematic use night arrests - An average of 55 percent of child detainees were arrested at night during the past 10 years. Although the military authorities announced in 2014 the introduction of a pilot scheme to issue summonses in lieu of arresting children at night - this announcement lacked substance with the authorities confirming that they kept no records during the pilot scheme. Parents and children consistently speak of the fear of night raids and in cases where the child is not home, there is some evidence of the military taking hostages.
Number of children affected (10 years): 2,750 - 5,500[i]
Systematic use of painful hand-ties and blindfolds - An average of 95 percent of child detainees were tied and 85 percent blindfolded following their arrest during the past 10 years. In the case of hand-ties, in over 90 percent of cases the military's own regulations for using restraints were not followed. While the military authorities informed Israel's Supreme Court in 2019 that "regulations forbid blindfolding" - the practice remains as prevalent today as a decade ago. Children continue to report swelling and bleeding as a result of being zip-tied.
Number of children affected (10 years): 4,250 - 9,500
Systematic use physical violence - An average of 65 percent of child detainees reported experiencing some type of physical violence while in custody during the past 10 years. The types of violence reported include: punching; slapping;kicking; struck with objects; and position abuse. Most of the abuse occurs immediately following arrest and during transfer to an interrogation centre - often on the metal floor of a military vehicle. In some cases abuse is also reported during interrogation inside police stations located in illegal West Bank settlements.
Number of children affected (10 years): 3,250 - 6,500
Systematic use of threats - An average of 59 percent of child detainees reported being threatened while in custody during the past 10 years. The use of threats is most commonly used during the interrogation process as a means to obtain a confession from children who are already sleep deprived, hungry and terrified. The types of threats frequently used include: physical violence; long-term detention; arrest of family members; cancellation of work permits; home demolition, administrative detention; and solitary confinement.
Number of children affected (10 years): 2,950 - 5,900
Systematic denial of legal rights - An average of 82 percent of child detainees were denied access to a lawyer prior to interrogation and 83 percent were not informed of their right to silence during the past 10 years. These rights are supposed to be guaranteed under military law. In cases where children were granted access to a lawyer, this was limited to a brief phone call in the interrogation room with the interrogator listening in most cases. In no cases were audio-visual tapes of the interrogation provided to defence counsel prior to the first hearing.
Number of children affected (10 years): 4,100 - 8,300
Systematic use of solitary confinement - Between 2013 and 2018 an average of 2 percent of child detainees were held in solitary confinement as part of the interrogation process. Between 2019 and 2022 this average jumped to 27 percent, with 42 percent of children reporting being placed in solitary in 2021. The cells used to hold children in solitary are generally tiny, windowless with a bright light on 24 hours a day. Children report self-harming and attempting suicide as a result of this treatment. In 2021, the average length of time in solitary was 12.5 days.
Number of children affected (10 years): 600 - 1,200
Systematic transfer out of occupied territory - An average of 57 percent of child detainees were forcibly transferred out of the West Bank to prisons located inside Israel during the past 10 years. This data comes from the Israeli Prison Service. Transferring detainees out of occupied territory is prohibited under Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and is classified as a war crime under both the Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. In 2014, Russia was sanctioned by the West for, in part, transferring Ukrainians from Crimea.
Number of children affected (10 years): 2,850 - 5,700
Number of children affected (55 years): 15,675 - 31,350
One factor over 90 percent of child detainees have in common in the past 10 years is that they live within approximately 1 kilometer of an Israeli settlement (or related infrastructure) built in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention - the same Convention Israel relies on to justify prosecuting these children in military courts.
Since the International Criminal Court ruled in February 2021 that the Court possesses jurisdiction over the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, a number of countries including: the US, UK, Germany, Canada and Australia - have taken active steps to oppose access to the court. More recently, the US, Germany, Italy, Canada and Australia have opposed the International Court of Justice providing an opinion on the legality of Israel's 55-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. With no political solution on the horizon and active steps being taken to prevent legal accountability, the potential for violence is growing, while confidence in a genuine rules-based order continues to decline.