[30 May 2021] – 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
. No further progress reports have been published.
Based on over 850 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 8-years, these have been insufficient to significantly improve the underlying characteristics of the system observed by UNICEF in 2013.
– UNICEF recommended that children should only be arrested during daytime hours. This followed evidence that the majority of 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
are currently occurring in 45 percent
of cases. A pilot scheme
to issue summonses in lieu of night arrests is now largely defunct.
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, 58 percent of children arrested from home are not informed in writing of the reasons for arrest and in no cases are parents being provided with information about their child’s legal rights. In cases where documents were provided, 71 percent were written in Hebrew.
Hand ties and blindfolds –
UNICEF recommended that the use of single plastic hand ties and blindfolds should be prohibited in all circumstances involving children. This followed evidence that plastic hand ties were frequently painful and caused injury. In 2013, 96 percent
of children reported being restrained with plastic ties and 81 percent
blindfolded. Currently hand ties
are being used in 99 percent
of cases while the use of blindfolds
has risen to 93 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, 73 percent
of children report experiencing physical violence
, including kicking and punching, and 76 percent
report being threatened
– 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, 81 percent
of children continue to be denied access to a lawyer
prior to interrogation and 92 percent
report not being informed of their right to silence
. No children are currently being 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, rising to 67 percent
in March 2021.
On 5 February 2021, the International Criminal Court determined
that the Court's territorial jurisdiction extends to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and on 3 March 2021, the Prosecutor's Office opened a formal investigation
into war crimes in the Palestinian Territories which will examine the conduct of both sides to the conflict.
MCW will continue to monitor developments.