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'Despite reforms, IDF still mistreating Palestinian children'

Nearly two years after Israel said it would work to improve its treatment of the Palestinian children it detains, there have been a few small positive developments. But ill-treatment of Palestinian minors still appears to be ‘widespread, systematic and institutionalized,’ a report by Military Court Watch says.

By Gerard Horton

Soldiers arresting youths in Nabi Saleh, 2013 (Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

Israeli soldiers arresting Palestinian youths in Nabi Saleh, 2013 (Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

In September 2011, a delegation of nine lawyers from the UK, including a former attorney general and Court of Appeal judge, visited Israel-Palestine to investigate the treatment of children in Israel’s military judicial system. The resulting report – Children in Military Custody – published in June 2012, found that Israel’s military detention of children violated at least six articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and two articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Eight months later, UNICEF came out with its own report – Children in Israeli Military Detention – which concluded that “the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized.” In response to these findings, Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced that it would “study the conclusions and work to implement them through on-going cooperation with UNICEF.”

Two years on, Military Court Watch (MCW) has published a report that reviews progress made in implementing the UK report’s 40 recommendations and finds that just 5 percent have been substantially implemented. While there have been a number of noteworthy developments during the past two years, including: a reduction in the time in which children must be brought before a military court judge for the first time; and the introduction of a pilot scheme to issue summonses in lieu of night-time arrests; children continue to report being ill-treated and denied basic legal rights. Following a review of developments and an analysis of 105 testimonies, MCW’s findings include:

1. More children than last year report being tied and blindfolded upon arrest;

2. More children than last year report being transported on the metal floor of vehicles; and

3. More children than last year report being subjected to physical violence.

While there has been a slight decrease in the number of children arrested at night following the introduction of the pilot scheme to issue summonses, 67 percent of these summonses were served in the middle of the night by the military. And while it is the case that slightly more children are now being informed of their rights, 78 percent of children are not told of their right to remain silent and 90 percent are prevented from consulting with a lawyer prior to questioning. At the conclusion of the interrogation stage, more children than ever before are being shown, or made to sign, documentation written in Hebrew and taken before military courts that still boast an overall conviction rate above 99 percent.

Read +972′s full coverage of children under occupation

Based on the evidence, and the cumulative impact of the treatment on children, MCW is unable to provide an alternative assessment to the conclusion reached by UNICEF in March 2013, that: “the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.”

Since officials at the Foreign Ministry announced that they would be looking at ways to implement the recommendations contained in both the UK and UNICEF reports, the task of doing so has been delegated to the chief military prosecutor in the West Bank, himself a resident of a West Bank settlement built in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention – the same Convention that establishes the jurisdiction of the military courts. This fact alone raises a question mark over how genuine the civilian and military authorities are about implementing real and lasting change in accordance with international law.

Gerard Horton is a lawyer and co-founder of Military Court Watch. Gerard has worked on the issue of children prosecuted in the Israeli military courts for the past seven years and is the author of a number of leading reports on the subject.

More on children under occupation:
Palestinian kids detail abusive interrogations, arrests
WATCH: Where kids are arrested for not having a mailbox
Testimonies: Systematic abuse, beatings and threats against Palestinian children

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    1. bor

      The report doesn’t seem to include any information from the Israeli side. Is that because the authors didn’t bother asking, the IDF didn’t bother answering or the authors did ask and were answered but the answers don’t seem satisfactory or in line with the claims of the children or those responding on their behalf?

      Reply to Comment
      • Jan

        Nothing can justify in any way Israel’s maltreatment of Palestinian children. Nothing at all.

        Just 10 days ago near Hebron an IDF soldier sitting in his armored vehicle shot a 10 year old boy in his back. The soldier drove off while the boy bled to death.

        Yesterday IDF snipers shot 16 year old Mohammad Abd Al-Majid Sunuqrut in the head. The teenager was talking on his mobile phone as he was heading toward prayers at his mosque. He is now in critical condition in a Jerusalem hospital.

        Many children both in Gaza and in the West Bank have been shot by trigger happy members of the IDF who rarely, if ever, are punished for their crimes.

        In one case in Gaza an IDF officer who shot 13 bullets into a young girl was investigated and cleared. The Israeli state paid him thousands of shekels for having been brought up for investigation.

        Reply to Comment
        • bor

          Wow, these horrendous stories and all Military Court Watch can think about is plastic handcuffs being placed with hands around back instead of front. You should go work for them, Jan, to make their reports more, um, lively.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Pedro X

      The story makes one think that 99% of Palestinian children arrested and detained are convicted and sentenced. Mr Horton:

      “more children than ever before are being shown, or made to sign, documentation written in Hebrew and taken before military courts that still boast an overall conviction rate above 99 percent.”

      If one reads the actual report it mentions that in 2013 1004 Palestinian children were detained. Of these 349 or 35% were released to Palestinian authorities. Another 190 were released without charge. 465 were indicted. The report does not say how many plead guilty, were convicted or acquitted or, for that matter how many cases went to trial. Even if all 465 detainees plead guilty or were convicted at trial, the conviction rate could be no greater than 46.5%. However, it is not.

      Mr. Horton also mentions 67% of arrests happen at night. I digress here to mention that in the UK, the Uk carries out 50% of arrests of children of illegal immigrants at night or in pre dawn raids.

      According to the report the statistics for the night arrests made by Israel show that 33% of those arrested are released within 24 hours of arrest. 60% are released within 1 week of arrest. this means 60% are released.

      The report also states that 93% of those detained are released within 3 months. Only 7% are detained longer. That 33% are held for 3 months indicate that many Palestinians are pleading guilty and receiving limited sentences of weeks or a couple of months. 7% or less are going to trial resulting in a sentence of longer than 3 months.

      Given the conflict going on, the actual conviction rate is low, much lower than you would find in the United States or the UK. Some 500,000 children are detained every year and 70,000 incarcerated in US jails.

      Reply to Comment
      • Jan

        Can you give statistics on how many children in the US and the UK under the age of 10 are arrested, blindfolded and taken to jail?

        Can you give statistics on how many Israeli Jewish kids are arrested, blindfolded and imprisoned?

        I believe that most of the Palestinian kids arrested by the occupiers have been accused of throwing stones at the occupiers. However, there is documentation of settlers, both adults and kids, throwing rocks and stones at Palestinian kids on their way to school and at Palestinian farmers on their own land. Can you tell me how many of the Jewish rock and stone throwers are arrested, blindfolded and imprisoned? I suspect that you can’t because there are few of any that are even stopped by the IDF as they throw rocks.

        It sure pays to be Jewish in “the only democracy.” You can get away with almost anything.

        Reply to Comment
          • nuff said

            Times of Israel is your source. Yeah no thanks. Real stats from real organizations in human rights, not a BLOG site that called for genocide being acceptable.


            Reply to Comment
          • bor

            Times of Israel is a serious newspaper led by one of Israel’s finest journalists. It publishes pieces from many excellent reporters and prognosticators of politics, business and society in Israel, the Middle East and other parts of the world.

            As you must know, seeing the cynical BS you’re trying to pull here, one of their bloggers, with access to posting, posted something promoting genocide. Within a very short time his post was removed and he was permanently banned from the site.

            In other words, stop lying.

            Reply to Comment
          • David T.

            “Times of Israel is a serious newspaper led by one of Israel’s finest journalists. … In other words, stop lying.”

            No comment …

            Reply to Comment
          • bor

            Oh, and while we’re on the subject, here is the official representative of the Palestinian Authority speaking about the recent Foley beheading and the Holocaust. Apparently, they’re just Zionist fabrications.


            Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          Jan, according to the report children under the age of 12 are released to the Palestinians themselves. By the way Palestinian attacks on Jewish men, women and children by Palestinians outnumbers Jewish attacks on Palestinians by a factor of more than 10. Hatzallah documented over 5600 attacks against Israelis in Judea and Samaria in just 6 months in 2013, 611 of which were fire bombings, not to mention stabbings and shootings. Most of these Palestinian perpetrators have not been brought to justice. Just on Saturday night a Jewish man was hit by a fire bomb causing first and second degree burns to his head. 3 pipe bombs filled with nails were thrown at Israelis from moving vehicles over the weekend. Also do not forget about the arson attacks and destruction of Jewish crops, vineyards, orchards and olive groves. So please stop pretending that Palestinian youth are just throwing stones. They are organized gangs trying to cause as much harm as they can with whatever material they have.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Richard

      Oh boy, nine Brits fly all the way to Israel to “investigate.” I wonder what dastardly deeds they will uncover this time.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Carlos Kort

      Why should it be forbidden for Palestinians to throw stones or fire rockets to the Israelis. I think they have the best arguments. They are occupied on their own land. It would be as a Raped woman is forbidden to slap the rapist in the face because he abused here. The palestinians have the right to protest against their occupier, that is legal, just and right. With this act you show the occupier that you don`t agree, and never will with that low treatment, they are brave and rather die with some dignity. Instead to submit like coward to the punisher and occupier like the undignified jews did during 2 w war,when they dig out their own grave. Resistance is not illegal it is an dignified act.if some man is not left any other option but to blow himself up just to get his punisher, thats is rather brave and desperate at the same time. I`ve never seen a brave Israeli yet. But they shoot on the kids the way with the least resistance, thats how brave they are. heavy weapons against stone throwing kids. great. IDF

      Reply to Comment