A report issued on March 17th by the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights points out that the Israeli forces have detained 740 Palestinian children during the first two months of 2014, 465 of them remained in custody for at least one week.
The Euro-Med Observer, an independent human rights organization based in Geneva, states that approximately 200 Palestinian minors were detained monthly on average by the Israeli forces during 2013, and 197 on average during 2012, according to data published by Defense for Children International (DCI) and Israel Prison Service.
The first month of 2014 witnessed the detention of 350 Palestinian children; some of them were released within hours of their capture, while 220 others were held for one week or more. However, in February 2014, 390 children were arrested, of whom 245 were kept under custody up to one week or more. This indicates an increase in the number of detained Palestinian children by 80% during the first two months of 2014 in comparison with monthly average of detentions during 2013.
Euro-Med’s report notes that after following up the cases of the detained Palestinian children, it was apparent that most charges held against them were linked to throwing stones at Israeli patrols roaming around in Palestinian cities, or taking part in a peaceful demonstration condemning Israel’s separation wall, or for shouting slogans, writings statements or paintings glorifying Palestine and rejecting the occupation. Such acts, the report confirms, are not deemed as crimes in international law and do not require the detention of a child as punishment.
According to the Israeli Military Order 1651, Palestinian child prisoners may be sentenced in military courts from the age of twelve, which violates both international and Israeli juvenile law.
The Israeli Military Order 1651 establishes a minimum age of criminal responsibility at 12 years, and sets out the maximum penalties that can be imposed on children in various age categories for a number of listed offences. The most common offence that children are charged with in the military courts is for stone throwing.
Euro-Med draws the attention to the fact that most cases of detention against Palestinian child prisoners are carried out after midnight, and are accompanied by repressive police actions frightening children and their families without acute or security necessity. Moreover, the children’s parents are not allowed to accompany their children and are not told where they are taken to. Most children, meanwhile, are denied from their right to immediate legal assistance as Israeli authorities often starts investigations right after the detention of the child without the presence of a lawyer. No child should be interrogated in the absence of a lawyer of choice and family member. Additionally, the majority of those children are faced by solitary confinement, a practice with severe negative psychological impacts on the children.
A number of children told Euro-Med following their release that during their interrogation by the Israeli forces, they were subjected to psychological pressure, scolding, deprivation of sleep, denial of access to toilets, and beating; different forms of torture and “harm, abuse, and violence” prohibited under the provisions of article (19/1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The report stressed that such escalation in detentions against Palestinian children without any legal basis is at odds with article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that : (a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; (b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time”.
” The report, more importantly, made clear that the detention of Palestinian children mounts to “a stark violation of their right to their freedom of expression.”
Mira Bushara, a researcher at Euro-Mid’s legal department, said “Israel is totally indifferent to the Convention on the Rights of the Child when it comes to Palestinian children” pointing at the incident of Wadea Muswada, a 5 years old Palestinian child from Hebron detained in June 2013 on the charge of “throwing stones”.
Bushara said incidents documented in the film “Children in Chains” by British director Jonathan Pullman, “shows us that what Israel is practicing against the rights of Palestinian children represents a methodology that applies to all Palestinian cities and are not mere individual incidents that happen here and there, especially when nearly 190 Palestinian children under the age of 8 are held in Israeli prisons until this moment”.