The Gross Injustices Against Palestinian Child Prisoners
Today I was unable to attend the debate on Palestinian child detainees in Westminster Hall, but since I had been attending a committee and the debate was completely packed out. The case of Palestinian child prisoners is one of the great international injustices of our time, so I’ve decided to publish what I had intended to say here.
Around 500 to 700 Palestinian children are tried in Israeli military courts each year, and though I completely agree that if someone has broken the law they ought to be held accountable, that is never an excuse to abuse human rights – especially the rights of children.
Military Court Watch have suggested that around 65% of child detainees are being arrested at night in what are frequently described as terrifying raids by the armed forces.
We are seeing numerous breaches of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including most concerningly breaching the article which prohibits the shackling of child prisoners – which is all the more critical given Israel is a signatory to the Convention on Rights of the Child.
93% of these children are being restrained with plastic ties, typically to an extent which causes them physical pain. Some 80% of children continue to be blindfolded or hooded, something which UNICEF have argued should be completely prohibited. The same study conducted by UNICEF found that the mistreatment of children under the military detention system is ‘widespread, systematic and institutionalised’.
Israel is a democratic state yet is failing, systematically, to abide by the norms of a rights-based democracy when it comes to its treatment of Palestinian child prisoners. And in many of these cases the treatment of children by the Israeli authorities is abhorrent.
In 2016 the military authorities informed UNICEF that they have absolutely no intention of changing their policy of holding Palestinian children in Israel prisons. This is in spite of the fact that such transfers from an occupied territory is in clear violation of Article 76 of the fourth Geneva Convention. Would we not be outraged if children from our constituencies were being held in a territory abroad, being detained for lengthy periods, shackled and hooded, often detained on trumped up charges and being dragged from their homes in the middle of the night?
That is the case of Ahed Tamimi who has recently become a high profile detainee and it is also the case of many other children. I am glad the UK government has recently made representations to the Israeli authorities about the case, but we know that this is not just a fringe case and that there is widespread treatment of children in this way. In fact we know that many of these children are much younger. We are talking about kids as young as 12 being imprisoned and kids as young as 6 being arrested, despite the fact that under Israel’s own domestic laws children under 12 may not be detained or arrested.
The abuses against Palestinian children and alleged abuses simply pile up and pile up.
This government needs to, as a priority for human rights, lobby the Israel administration to end the practice of illegally transferring children from the occupied territory – as this practice is a grave violation of international law and undermines any prospects for peace. This must be accompanied by pressuring the administration to end to the routine use of night arrests, blindfolding and the use of painful restraints. And it must be accompanied by pressuring the Israeli administration to guarantee that children will not be subjected to violence, torture, coercive force or threats. These are basic, democratic norms which we would always expect to be applied to our own children and these are the standard human rights we expect to be applied to all children regardless of the political context.
An earlier version of this post stated incorrectly that G4S was providing services in prisons in which Palestinian children are detained.