UN: Israel Must Respect Rights of Palestinian Child Detainees

06/08/2012 - A United Nations independent human rights expert, along with other rights advocates, are urging the Israeli Government to treat child detainees in accordance with international human rights laws.

In a recent news release, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, highlighted how “Israel’s use of solitary confinement against children flagrantly violates international human rights standards.”

He added that “using solitary confinement as a punishment for Palestinian children who wish to peacefully protest their situation, including by commencing a hunger strike against conditions of detention, is an appalling abuse of child prisoners.I again condemn Israel’s harsh arrest operations and procedures.”

Mr. Falk’s comments came in the wake mounting concerns on the issue, raised most recently by the UN Special Committee on Israeli practices in the Occupied Territories, at the end of a fact-finding mission to Jordan, Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

“According to testimony received, Israel uses solitary confinement against 12 per cent of Palestinian child detainees,” the Special Committee’s Chairperson, Ambassador Palitha T.B. Kohona of Sri Lanka, said in a news release. “This is especially troubling when one considers that Israel arrests about 500 to 700 Palestinian children every year.”

The Special Committee also warned that a pattern of detaining and mistreating children “links to broader, longstanding concerns regarding Israel detention of Palestinians generally.”

The Special Committee head said that parents are not allowed to accompany the detainees, and that family members are insulted, intimidated and at times physically assaulted.

According to witnesses, the detention and transfer of children can last for hours, and can often include stops in Israeli settlements, Israeli checkpoints and police or military bases.

“This pattern of abuse by Israel is grave,” said Special Rapporteur Falk. “It is inhumane, cruel, degrading, and unlawful, and, most worryingly, it is likely to adversely affect the mental and physical health of underage detainees.”

The Special Rapporteur appealed to the Government of Israel to take urgent steps to bring their treatment of Palestinian children detainees into line with international human rights laws, in particular the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Supporting the findings of the Special Committee, a report released by a delegation of British lawyers and MPs who visited Israel and Occupied Palestine in 2011 also concluded that Israel violates six articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The 36 page report, funded by the British Government and titled "Children in Military Custody," the delegation stated that Israel was breaking articles of the U.N., including its use of shackles on children and non-separation from adult prisoners.

It was further noted in the report, "It may be that much of the reluctance to treat Palestinian children in conformity with international standards stems from a belief, which was advanced to us by a military prosecutor, that ‘every Palestinian child is a potential terrorist’.

Such a stance seems to us to be the starting point of a spiral of injustice and one which only Israel, as the Occupying Power in the West Bank, can reverse."