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First-ever bill on Palestinian human rights introduced in Congress

Israeli occupation forces arrest two Palestinian minors near occupied Al-Ram in the West Bank on 22 May 2017 [Twitter]

Draft legislation was introduced in Congress yesterday that would prohibit US military and financial aid to Israel from being used to detain Palestinian children in the West Bank.

Initiated by Minnesota Democrat Representative Betty McCollum, with co-sponsorship by nine other Democrats, it is the first-ever bill on Palestinian human rights introduced in Congress.

The Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act would prevent US “tax dollars from supporting the Israeli military’s ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children” (the full text of the bill can be found here).

The Act requires the Secretary of State to certify annually that no funds obligated or expended in the previous year by the United States for assistance to Israel have been used to support the ill-treatment of Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces from the occupied West Bank.

Read: Israel arrests 483 Palestinian children this year

“Peace can only be achieved by respecting human rights, especially the rights of children,” Congresswoman McCollum said.

Congress must not turn a blind eye to the unjust and ongoing mistreatment of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation.

According to Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCIP), the bill aims to establish “a US demand for basic due process rights for and an absolute prohibition against torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian children arrested and prosecuted within the Israeli military court system.”

The NGO’s General Director, Khaled Quzmar, said: “Despite ongoing engagement with UN bodies and repeated calls to abide by international law, Israeli military and police continue night arrests, physical violence, coercion and threats against Palestinian children.”

Read: Israel tortured, arrested Palestinian boy

He added: “These practices remain institutionalised and systemic rather than last resort measures, and we call on the US to halt its support of these violations.”

DCIP notes that Israel has “the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes an estimated 500 to 700 children each year in military courts that lack fundamental fair trial rights and protections”.

Some 10,000 Palestinians aged 12-17 in the West Bank have been subject to arrest, detention, interrogation and imprisonment by Israeli military courts since 2000. There have been hundreds of cases of physical violence and interrogation without the presence of a family member.

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According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, while “the bill does not have a high chance of becoming law, but its very introduction is a sign of Israel’s political challenges in the Democratic Party, where criticism is growing over the situation in the occupied West Bank.”

That the legislation drew support from 10 Democrats overall, before being formally introduced in the House, the paper added, “is seen as a sign of success for pro-Palestinian activists in the US”.

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