Palestinian Child’s Day marked with focus on detained minors

Sunday 09/04/2017
A bleak picture of childhood. An Israeli border policeman arrests a Palestinian boy following clashes in the West Bank, on March 7th. (AP)

London - Palestinian Child’s Day was marked on April 5th with a focus on the plight of minors detained in Israeli jails amid reports of grim conditions faced by the children.

The Palestinian Authority Infor­mation Ministry released a state­ment accusing Israeli authorities of waging a war against Palestinian children and called on international bodies to hold Israel responsible for “violations” against children.

The statement said the Israeli army had killed 35 children and ar­rested 350 others in 2016.

Palestinian Child’s Day is meant as “a call for protection to be afford­ed to our children”, the statement said. “Palestinian children need in­ternational protection and societal care to guide their future and afford the minimum rights recognised in the international conventions.”

In an opinion article published in al-Quds newspaper, Palestinian Au­thority Minister of Social Develop­ment Ibrahim al-Shaer wrote: “We are witnessing an escalation by the Israeli occupation against Palestin­ian children.”

The minister said five Palestin­ian children had been killed so far in 2017 and 350 remain imprisoned.

The Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said Israeli courts fined Palestinian minors impris­oned in the Ofer detention centre a total of $15,420 in February and $14,000 in January.

Figures released by the Palestin­ian Prisoners Centre for Studies stated that 70 Palestinian minors were detained by Israeli forces in February.

Ahead of Palestinian Child’s Day, a conference in the West Bank fo­cused on child detainees.

“It is our responsibility to end the war on our children. The inter­national community must stand as one human rights council and hold Israel accountable,” Palestin­ian Prime Minister Rami Hamdal­lah said at the conference’s partici­pants, the Palestine News Network reported.

The conference also provided a platform for former child detainees, who spoke about their experiences, in addition to a panel of psychia­trists who explained detention’s ef­fects on children’s mental health.

The Israeli non-governmental organisation Military Court Watch (MCW), which monitors the treat­ment of children in Israeli deten­tion, conducted a study based on testimonies from 450 Palestin­ian children detained from 2013- 16. The study was meant to follow Israeli practices following a 2013 UNICEF report that urged changes in the treatment of Palestinian child detainees.

MCW said the Israeli government did not implement the UNICEF recommendations and pointed out there had been a sharp increase in child detention rates since 2013.

MCW said 51% of children in 2016 reported being arrested at night; 92% of children reported being tied upon arrest; 83% of chil­dren reported being blindfolded; 60% of children said they experi­enced some form of physical abuse during arrest, transfer or interro­gation; 87% of children reported not being informed of their right to silence under military law; and 61% of parents reported not be­ing notified of the reasons for ar­rest or place of detention in cases in which children were arrested at home.

“There is evidence to indicate that up to 90% of children detained by the military in the West Bank continue to be interrogated with­out prior access to a lawyer,” wrote MCW on its website. That figure is an improvement on the total lack of access to lawyers that MCW re­corded in 2013.

In an investigative report pub­lished in the Israeli daily Haaretz, journalist Amira Hass pointed to a case in which the suggested evi­dence against a child accused of throwing stones against Israeli sol­diers was that he was “nearby” the incident.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) released a statement to Haaretz stating: “The IDF has been dealing in recent years with a growing phe­nomenon of involvement of minors in the West Bank in offences, among them serious security offences. En­forcement of the law against mi­nors is done with consideration for their age. Thus, for example, as a rule they are questioned by spe­cially qualified youth interrogators; their periods of detention are short­er than for adults; and their case is brought before a military court for youth.

“The IDF acts at all times to en­sure that in cases in which it is necessary to enforce the law with regard to minors, this is done while maintaining their legal rights and with consideration for their age. Military prosecutors have been in touch with UNICEF personnel on matters connected to the rights of minors and concerning allegations raised in the last [UNICEF] report. IDF soldiers are instructed about the rules applying to the treatment of minors, especially regarding the ages at which it is possible to hold minors in detention. Every claim concerning a specific case will be investigated as to its particulars.”