The Bureau of Statistics at the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Prisoners has revealed that the Israeli occupation authorities are still detaining nearly 190 Palestinian children, "in circumstances that are similar to those under which adults are detained, in terms of location, cruelty and inhuman treatment, as well as poor nutrition and health care". In a press statement, the Bureau said the occupation authorities "have never excluded children from their arrest campaigns, whether individual, collective, random or organised".
Israel has detained tens of thousands of children since its military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip began in 1967. Since the start of the Aqsa Intifada (uprising) in September 2000, records show that the Israeli authorities have detained more than 9,000 children below the age of eighteen. "These were picked up during 75,000 operations carried out against Palestinians in general during the same period," said the Bureau. "Hundreds of children were detained during these sweeps and many have passed their childhood inside Israeli prisons."
In a report published on Thursday, April 5, to mark Palestinian Child Day, the Ministry accuses the Israelis of systematic torture, undue pressure and blackmail against children during investigations; their hands are shackled and eyes covered during this process. "The children are beaten severely," claims the report, "and are subjected to electric shocks. They are forced to stand naked or semi-naked in the cold and under the hot sun, and are being deprived of their right to education, to continue their basic learning and to complete their study, which has a negative impact on their future."
The report also pointed out that detained children are often taken to illegal Jewish settlements, "which are turned into investigation centres, without any official monitors, in order to extract confessions by force and under duress". It noted that all those who were arrested have been subjected to some form of physical or psychological torture according to international definitions. "Torture and other harsh interrogation methods are no longer exclusive to adults, but have been extended by the Israelis to young children."
The Ministry said the danger is that the Israeli judiciary depends on these confessions extracted from young detainees in order to deliver judgements. They appear not to care about the methods used to obtain such confessions, even when no offences have been committed. "In most cases," the report concludes, "Israeli military courts issue judgments against children which, in some instances, include life sentences handed down not once, but several times."