Bethlehem: Some 700 Palestinian children per year are arrested and face “ill-treatment” by Israeli forces, according to a new report by a children’s rights group.
In the report, Child Rights International Network said that “during 2014, an average of 197 children were held in military detention every month, 13 per cent of whom are under the age of 16.”
“Arrested children are commonly taken into custody by heavily armed soldiers, blindfolded with their wrists tied behind their backs before being transported to an interrogation centre,” the CRIN report said.
“Children questioned about their experience frequently report verbal and physical abuse during the arrest.”
According to research conducted by Defense for Children International — Palestine cited by the report, some 56 percent of children report having experienced “coercive” interrogation techniques during their time in Israeli custody.
Some 42 percent say they signed documents in Hebrew, despite the fact that most Palestinian children do not speak or understand the language.
Additionally, 22 percent of detained children say they underwent up to 24 hours of solitary confinement, in violation of international standards.
“This detention is a clear violation of children’s rights under several international human rights treaties to which Israel is a party,” the CRIN report said.
“The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture has called for a complete ban on solitary confinement for juveniles, warning that it ‘can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment when used as a punishment, during pre-trial detention, indefinitely or for prolonged periods, for persons with mental disabilities or juveniles.'”
The report said that while it is technically possible to file a complaint about the way a child is treated in Israeli detention, “complaints are almost universally dismissed,” and there are “very few examples of soldiers being punished for ill-treatment.”
14-year-old girl imprisoned for 2 months
The report highlighted a case in which a 14-year-old girl from Ramallah was arrested on Dec. 31 and held for 22 days in Israel before being issued a sentence.
She was charged with throwing stones, blocking the road, and possessing a knife, “sentenced to two months in prison, and fined $1,528 by an Israeli military court.”
Her father believes she was coerced into confessing, saying: “She seemed to be very sick and scared.”
“The plight of this one girl put a face on a system that routinely runs roughshod over children’s rights,” CRIN said. “But behind this story there is a broader issue.”
The report recommended reforms while noting that countless other recommendations by human rights groups regarding the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli custody have gone unheeded by Israeli authorities.
Ultimately, CRIN concluded, children will never be treated well under an Israeli military justice system.
“Regardless of the precise formulation of military rule, it can never protect children in the same way as a developed civilian juvenile justice system which places the best interests of the child at the centre of its work.”