Almost two thirds of Palestinian minors who were arrested in 2017 experienced abuse at the hands of Israeli forces, an increase of four per cent on a UNICEF report of four years ago, according to a new study by Military Court Watch (MCW).
Of the 70 children who were interviewed, a sample of the hundreds who were arrested this year, 64 per cent reported enduring slaps, kicks, pinches, blows with various objects, pushes and being forced to sit in painful positions.
The prisoner rights watchdog also highlighted that such abuse took place within a context that is already frightening; children are often arrested following night raids, are blindfolded, endure verbal abuse and threats and are denied their legal rights to remain silent and access legal aid.
The report highlighted several case studies of children detained by Israel and their experiences of arrest. One 14-year-old boy reported being shot in the foot with a rubber-coated steel bullet, before being arrested, blindfolded and left for seven hours on the floor of a military vehicle without access to food, water or a toilet.
Another teenager testified that he was arrested at 2:30am during a night raid on his home without being informed of the charges. After being assaulted at a police station, he signed a document in Hebrew without knowledge of what it meant. He consequently was sentenced to two months in prison for confessing to throwing stones.
In 2013, a report by UNICEF found that 60 per cent of children detained by Israel were abused in custody. In response to the findings, the Israeli military’s Legal Advisor issued a letter to the heads of all divisions operating in the occupied West Bank, reminding all units standard operating procedures prohibit violence against children. Four years later, the proportion of children abused has only increased.
MCW called for several measures to be instituted to reduce the human rights violations taking place, namely the use of summons in lieu of night raids and arrests, enforcing mandatory meetings with lawyers prior to a minor’s questioning and mandatory audio-visual recording of all interrogations.
Israel’s action on these policies remains doubtful; a recent review conducted by MCW suggests that only one of UNICEF’s 38 previous recommendations has been substantially implemented since 2013 – an implementation rate of just 2.6 per cent.
As of 31 October, some 483 children between the ages of 13 and 17 have been arrested by Israel this year. Dozens more have been arrested in past weeks following protests at the announcement of US President Donald Trump recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The final figures for this year have yet to be calculated.