UK jurists report: Israeli child detention practices illegal

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)

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  1. Israels human rights
    Whats the UK going to do about it are they going to let Israel get away with abusing childrens rights without censor. The UK need to tell the Israelis this needs to stop along with the building of illegal settlements, before they can be treated as a civil democratic country

  2. UN condemns Israel treatment of child detainees
    A UN special committee, composed of representatives from Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Senegal, on July 19 condemned Israel’s treatment of child detainees. The committee detailed law enforcement practices such as violent raids on homes without warrants, use of solitary confinement, and interrogators pressuring children to become informants. These findings prompted the UN to call for Israel to change their practices to conform to the human rights values outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In particular, the committee called for an end to the use of solitary confinement as punishment for children. According to committee findings, 12 percent of the estimated 500 to 700 underage Palestinians detained by Israel every year are subjected to this form of punishment. The statement also includes concern over general practices of the Israeli government, specifically the destruction of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem:

    These Israeli practices lead the Special Committee to one over-arching and deeply troubling conclusion… The mass imprisonment of Palestinians; the routine demolition of homes and the displacement of Palestinians; the widespread violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians; and the blockade and resultant reliance on illegal smuggling to survive; these practices amount to a strategy to either force the Palestinian people off their land or so severely marginalize them as to establish and maintain a system of permanent oppression.

    The full findings of the committee’s mission will be presented to the UN General Assembly in November. (Jurist, July 21)