Palestinian children are exempt from no Israeli laws. Like adults, they face arrest, prosecution and imprisonment under an Israeli military detention system that denies them basic rights.
As told in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides, military law has applied to Palestinians in the West Bank since 1967, when Israel occupied the territory following the Six Day War. On the other hand, Jewish settlers, who reside within the bounds of the West Bank, in violation of international law, are subject to Israeli civilian legal framework.
Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes between 500 and 700 children in military courts each year. Since 2012, Israel has held an average of 204 Palestinian children, their ages ranging from 11 to 17, in custody each month. Three-quarters of them endured some form of physical violence following their arrest. In 97% of the, children had no parent present during the interrogation or access to any legal counsel. Interrogators used position abuse, threats and isolation to coerce confessions from some of these children. Sixty-six of these children were held in solitary confinement for an average of 13 days. More than 90% of children held in solitary confinement provided a confession. Children most commonly face the charge of throwing stones which carries maximum sentences of 10 or 20 years, depending on the circumstances.
In 179 out of 429 cases the Israeli military arrested children from their homes in the middle of the night.
Recently, around 3:00 a.m. Israeli forces stormed a home in the West Bank. A boy, age 17, woke to find 10 masked soldiers in his room. He was grabbed from his bed, slapped, and pushed against the wall. Another soldier physically assaulted the father while the others ransacked the house. The boy was then forced into a military jeep and transported to a nearby military camp. His parents will not see him, or be informed of his whereabouts, until he appears before a military tribunal, time and place to be determined.
In some cases, Israeli authorities transfer Palestinian child detainees from the West Bank to prisons inside Israel in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. While awaiting trial, these children have little or no family visits because the vast majority of people living in the West Bank are unable to obtain entry permits to enter Israel proper.
Israel ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, obligating itself to implement the full range of rights and protections included in the convention.
According to Khaled Quman, General Director of Defense for Children Palestine: “The widespread ill-treatment of Palestinian children and the systematic denial of their due process rights by Israeli forces and the military law framework further the control aspects of Israel’s prolonged military occupation of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories.
“Recent amendments to Israeli military law have had little to no impact on the treatment of children during the first 24 to 48 hours after an arrest when most of the abuse occurs at the hands of the Israeli soldiers, police and the security service.
“In no circumstances should children face detention and prosecution under the jurisdiction of military courts. As a minimum safeguard, however, Israeli authorities have an obligation to ensure all procedures from the moment of arrest conform to international juvenile justice standards.
“International law is clear: Children should only be detained as a last resort, for the shortest appropriate period of time, and under absolutely no circumstances should they be subjected to torture or ill-treatment.
“Why then, year after year, do we see Palestinian children experiencing widespread, systematic, and institutionalized ill-treatment and torture at the hands of Israeli forces?”
This is no way to treat a child.