UK Report finds Israel breaches International Law in treatment of Palestinian children
A group of nine British lawyers lawyers from the fields of human rights, crime and child welfare released the Children in Military Custody report on Tuesday, concluding that Israel is in breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Fourth Geneva Convention in its treatment of Palestinian children.
The Report compared Israeli domestic law as it applies to Israeli children, and Israeli military law as it applies to Palestinian children, and found significant differences.
“What is important is that, whatever the offence charged, an Israeli child and a Palestinian child should from start to finish be treated by the Israeli justice system, whether civilian or military in form, according to the same principles and procedures,” the Report states.
Practices criticised in the report included discrimination, failure to observe the child’s best interests, premature resort to detention, confining children with adult prisoners, delayed access to lawyers, and the use of shackles. The group also considered that other practices they were informed of, if proven, would constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The Report contains a litany of abuses of Palestinian children at every stage of the process, from arrest through interrogation, bail hearings and plea bargains, trial, sentencing, detention and complaints.
One section (Section 36, of the 120 in the Report) describing only the detention process, states:
“…those who have been identified as offenders or suspects are arrested by soldiers, usually in nighttime raids on their homes are blindfolded, and, with their wrists painfully bound behind them, are then transported to interrogation centres, sometimes face-down on the floor of military vehicles. The majority are verbally and / or physically abused and, without being informed of their right to silence or the right to see a lawyer, are sometimes held in solitary confinement, pressured to inculpate themselves and others, and are often made to sign statements which they cannot read because they are written in Hebrew. Interrogations are not, save on rare occasions, audio-visually recorded, and those tapes that do exist are almost impossible to obtain by defence lawyers representing the children.”
The details of these detentions, as well as the remand and jail conditions, make horrifying reading.
The project was funded by the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the reporting group was comprised by The Rt Hon Sir Stephen Sedley, The Rt Hon the Baroness Patricia Scotland of Asthal QC, Frances Oldham QC, Marianna Hildyard QC, Judy Khan QC, Jayne Harrill, Jude Lanchin, Greg Davies and Marc Mason.
The stature of the reporting group, and the fact that “a substantial and balanced body of relevant information was collated” from key parties, including Israeli Government departments and the military, Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, UN agencies, former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian children, gives some hope that international pressure will be brought upon Israel to end these illegal and inhumane practices.
Whether Israel bows to the pressure, and observes international law, is quite another matter.
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