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New report: Palestinian children in Israeli military detention experience violence, coerced confessions

A new report on Palestinian children in Israeli military detention claims that prisoners as young as 12-years-old are routinely subjected to violence, coerced confessions, and solitary confinement.

'No Way to Treat a Child', published today by Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP), is based on the testimonies of more than 400 Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces between January 2012 and December 2015.

According to DCIP, the affidavits are evidence of "the widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system." Three-quarters of the 429 Palestinian children detained in the West Bank during the period considered in the report "endured some form of physical violence following arrest."

In 41.7 per cent of cases, the Israeli military arrested children from their homes in the middle of the night, while in 88.1 per cent of cases, Israeli forces arrested children without notifying parents of the reason for arrest or the location of detention. In 416 of 429 cases – 97 per cent – children had no parent present during the interrogation or access to legal counsel.

DCIP documented 66 children held in solitary confinement, for an average period of 13 days, during the reporting period. More than 90 percent of those held in solitary confinement produced a confession (a third of which were drafted in Hebrew).

According to the NGO, "many children maintain their innocence, but plead guilty as it is the fastest way to get out of the system." Out of 295 cases that resulted in convictions, just over half of children (151) received a custodial sentence between three and 12 months.

An additional issue is the fact that Israeli authorities transfer nearly 60 per cent of Palestinian child detainees out of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) to prisons inside Israel, a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Marking the report's publication, Khaled Quzmar, DCIP General Director, said that "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 Israeli soldiers, police, and the security service."

Quzmar added that, despite Israel's obligations under international law, "year after year", Palestinian children are "experiencing widespread, systematic, and institutionalized ill-treatment at the hands of Israeli forces."

Israel operates two, separate legal systems in the OPT; a civilian legal framework for Israeli citizens living in illegal settlements, and military law for Palestinians. According to DCIP, Israel is the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes 500-700 children in military courts each year.

As of February 2016, there were 440 Palestinian children in Israeli detention for so-called 'security' offenses, the highest total since the Israel Prison Service (IPS) started providing figures in 2008. Almost one in four of these children (104) are aged 12-15. In addition, seven Palestinian children are held without charge or trial, based on Israeli military-issued administrative detention orders.

See MEMO's infographic on the detention of Palestinian Minors.

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