Israeli authorities “transferred dozens of Palestinian child detainees outside the occupied West Bank to a prison inside Israel last week”, human rights NGO Defence for Children Palestine (DCIP) has revealed, in a move it described as “amounting to a war crime”.
According to DCIP, on 13 January the Israel Prison Service (IPS) moved 33 Palestinian children from Ofer prison, located near Ramallah inside the occupied West Bank, to Damon prison, located inside the Green Line near Haifa.
“The transfer of Palestinian child prisoners outside the occupied West Bank is a war crime,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Programme Director at DCIP.
“Israeli authorities must only detain children as a measure of last resort for the shortest necessary period of time without transferring them outside the occupied West Bank”.
The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power transferring members of the occupied civilian population outside of the occupied territory, including detainees.
The children told their lawyers that they were held at Damon prison “in basement rooms with terrible conditions, including mice”, and during the first three days at Damon prison the children refused meals to protest the transfer and prison conditions”.
As DCIP highlighted, “the immediate practical consequence is that the trip to Ofer military court is now a three-day journey, as children are transferred to Al-Ramleh prison before and after they appear in the military court”.
In addition, “the children are more severely separated from their families as parents face undue obstacles when attempting to visit children detained at prisons inside Israel”.
Such obstacles can include “permit delays” from Israeli occupation authorities, and “families must travel long distances and pass through checkpoints in order to visit their children”.
The most recent data released by Israeli occupation authorities revealed that, as of the end of December 2019, at least 186 Palestinian children aged between 14 and 17 years old were detained in the Israeli military detention system.
“Israel’s practice of unlawfully transferring Palestinian prisoners out of occupied territory has been challenged twice before the Israeli Supreme Court”, but that “in both instances, the court held that when in conflict, primary Israeli legislation overrides the provisions of international law”, said DCIP.