Detention data - Child detention rates continued to decline in 2021 and are now 33 percent below the 10-year average (151/227). This trend is reflected in the official detention figures released by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) indicating an 8 percent decline in the average number of children detained in 2021 compared with 2020. Experience indicates that these figures tend to rise and fall depending on the prevailing situation which can deteriorate rapidly.
Age and gender
- As in previous years the overwhelming majority of children in detention continue to be males aged between 16 and 17 years - a group that makes up approximately 83 percent of the total. Children aged 14-15 years represented 17 percent and children aged 12-13 years represented 0.6 percent. As of December
2021, there were 145 children (12-17 years) held as "security prisoners" in military detention. For a third year in a row no female children were held in IPS detention facilities.
Sentences and fines - As in previous years the most common offence involving minors remains stone throwing. Based on the evidence collected by MCW in 2021 the average custodial sentence was 4.5 months with a fine of NIS 2,000. In addition, each boy convicted of an offence also received a suspended sentence averaging 10 months suspended for 3 years. The average custodial sentence increased in severity during 2021 (4 months in 2020) while the average fine remained unchanged.
- During the course of the year the practice of holding children in administrative detention
(without charge or trial) continued after its re-introduction in October 2015 following a four-year hiatus. The average number of children held administratively in any one month increased significantly from 2.1 in 2020 to 5.6 children in 2021. All children held in administrative detention in 2021 were males. As of December 2021, there were 5 children held under administrative detention orders.
Link to settlements
- As in previous years, the evidence suggests a strong geographic link between Israeli West Bank settlements (and their associated road network) and the military detention of children living nearby. On average, the children detained live within 1 kilometer of a West Bank settlement built in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention - the same Convention relied on by the military authorities to justify
prosecuting these children in military courts.
- As in previous years the majority of Palestinian child detainees from the West Bank continue to be transferred and detained in Israel in violation of Article 76
of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Articles 8.2(a)(vii)
of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. According to IPS data an average of 64 percent of child detainees were transferred and detained outside the West Bank in 2021. This practice has continued for 54 years and is designated as a war crime.
Specific issues of concern
- MCW continues to monitor 13 issues of concern through the collection of testimonies. The issues range from the time of arrest, reports of ill-treatment and the denial of basic legal rights. The findings are presented in a Comparative Graph (2013-2021)
which is updated on a monthly basis. It should be noted that MCW will continue to collect evidence from children detained during 2021 until June 2022 resulting in changes to this data. Based on the evidence, UNICEF's
2013 conclusion "that the ill-treatment of children appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized" remains valid in 2021.
Surge in solitary confinement cases
- In December
MCW released a report
highlighting a surge in the use of solitary confinement of children. Historically, less than 4 percent of child detainees have reported being held in solitary confinement as part of the interrogation process - or 20 to 40 children each year. This report suggests that the proportion of children currently held in solitary confinement has surged to nearly 20 percent. This surge equates to between 100 to 200 children each year. There is a general consensus that solitary confinement for children should be prohibited as it constitutes cruel and degrading treatment potentially amounting to torture.
Corona-19 virus - The impact on child detention of the outbreak of Corona virus in Israel and the West Bank in February 2020, included: an initial decrease in the number of night raids conducted by the Israeli military on Palestinian homes - this may account for the reduction in the number of night arrests documented; the establishment of quarantine sections in some prisons; the initial cancellation of family visits to prisons; the installation of phones in most prisons enabling some children to contact their parents between 2-8 times per month; restrictions on access to military courts for parents and observers; and the use of video links for court appearances.
Erosion of confidence in a rules-based order
the International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled
that it possessed territorial jurisdiction over Palestine. Following the ICC's ruling Israeli media
reported that "senior security officials said a number of ICC member states have agreed to give advance warning to Israel of any intent to arrest Israelis on their arrival in those countries or if a request for an arrest warrant is issued." Subsequently, the United Kingdom
indicated rejection of the Court's jurisdiction and although not a state party, the Biden Administration
has also reportedly been lobbying to block access. It should be noted that these states are not alone in seeking to restrict access to the Court. These actions tend to erode faith and confidence in a genuine rules-based order and its associated institutions with the potential for wider implications.
MCW Annual Report (2020/21)
Senior figures attack 'obstruction' of ICC's Palestine investigation