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UNICEF Report: Children in Israeli Military Detention

[6 March 2013] The mistreatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention is “widespread, systematic and institutionalised” according to a report published today by UNICEF. The report – Children in Israeli Military Detention – reviewed over 400 cases of children tried in juvenile military courts, which according to UNICEF, “fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.”

UNICEF analysed the treatment of children in the system from the moment of their arrest until their release. The report makes a number of findings including the following:
  • Many children are subject to “frightening” night time arrests during which windows and furniture are sometimes broken and verbal threats are made.
  • Few parents are informed why their child is being detained or where the child is being taken.
  • During transfer to an interrogation centre many children endure physical and verbal abuse, as well as pain caused by the use of plastic hand ties. Some children are also made to sit on the metal floor of vehicles for the duration of the journey to interrogation – a journey that can take many hours.
  • Children report being exposed to the elements for prolonged periods of time and denied access to water, food and toilet facilities.
  • No child was accompanied by a parent during the interrogation process and no independent oversight was present, such as audio-visual recording.
  • Children are subjected to interrogations that mix intimidation, threats and physical violence, “with the clear purpose of forcing the child to confess.” The report also finds that some children “have been threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault.”
  • At the conclusion of the interrogation, most children confess and in many cases the forms used to document their confessions are written in Hebrew.
  • Children are brought to the military court in handcuffs and leg shackles and most children are denied bail.
  • A majority of children are convicted based on confessions that were extracted under “duress”.
  • The majority of children serve their sentences inside Israel, in violation of article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
UNICEF concludes that “these practices are in violation of international law that protects all children against ill-treatment when in contact with law enforcement, military and judicial institutions.” UNICEF also makes 38 specific recommendations including:
  1. All children should be informed of the reasons for their arrest at the time of arrest and in a language they understand;
  2. All arrests of children should be conducted during daylight;
  3. Children should only be restrained for the time that is strictly necessary. Use of restraining methods and instruments should respect the child’s dignity and not cause unnecessary pain or suffering;
  4. The questioning or interrogation of a child should always take place in the presence of a lawyer and a family member, and should always be audio-visually recorded for the purpose of independent oversight; and
  5. 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.