A delegation of senior British jurists last week released a report finding Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children in custody violates international law. The report charges that Israel is in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on at least six counts and of the Fourth Geneva Convention on at least two counts. The study, “Children in Military Custody,” was funded and backed by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and written by an ad hoc group including a former attorney general, a former court of appeal judge and several prominent attorneys.
The study documents testimony by UN workers, Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian children that minors are subject to shackling, hooding and solitary confinement. “To hold children routinely and for substantial periods in solitary confinement would, if it occurred, be capable of amounting to torture,” the report states. It also accuses Israeli forces of seizing children in night raids, physical and verbal abuse, and keeping them from their parents. Rights groups estimate around 700 Palestinian children are detained by Israel each year.
The report also notes that by applying separate legal regimes for Israeli and Palestinian children, Israel is in breach of international laws against discrimination. Israeli children cannot be jailed under the age of 14, while Palestinian children as young as 12 have been held by Israel. Israeli children must be given access to a lawyer within 48 hours, whereas Palestinians can be held for three months without legal counsel. “Under international law, no state is entitled to discriminate between those over whom it exercises penal jurisdiction on the basis of their race or nationality. Unequal or differential justice is not justice,” the report says.
Israel is also breaking international humanitarian law by transferring Palestinian children from an occupied territory into Israel, the study states. The report welcomes recent legal improvements, which introduced juvenile courts into the military system that rules Palestinians, but notes “in spite of legal reform, practices are not changing.”
The Palestinian Authority welcomed the report, saying British authority “will exert a much needed pressure on Israel to change its abusive policies.” A statement said: “The importance of the report emerges not only from the severity of its conclusions, but also from being investigated and published by an external, independent delegation, whose integrity cannot be challenged.” (Electronic Intifada, July 4; Ma’an News Agency, June 28)