The report sets out findings from a review of practices surrounding Palestinian children who come into contact with the Israeli detention system. Though the authors acknowledge that progress has been made to improve the treatment of juveniles, they conclude that ill-treatment of youngsters is still “widespread, systematic and institutionalized”.
International law requires that all children are treated with dignity and respect by judicial systems, and also prohibits the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. However, since 2007, violations against this law have regularly been reported to UNICEF.
Around 700 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17 are arrested, questioned and detained each year by the Israeli army, police and security agents. The report found that during this process, many children are aggressively wakened in the middle of the night, tied and blindfolded. During the transfer process to interrogation centres, some children have to endure physical or verbal abuse and may suffer from painful restraints. Further ill-treatment can occur at holding centres, where children can be exposed to the elements, lack water, food or toilet facilities and be sleep deprived. Such treatment can easily put youngsters in “a state of extreme fear”.
The UNICEF report concedes that some ‘positive changes’ have been made to improve the treatment of young detainees in recent years. For example, new hand-tying procedures have been introduced and a special juvenile military court established. In addition, a new order requires that police notify parents about the arrest of their children and specifies that juveniles should be informed about their right to consult a lawyer.
However, the new order does not stipulate when a legal consultation should occur and notification requirements have not been imposed on the army, which conducts many of the arrests.
Responding to the findings of the report, an Israeli spokesperson explains to the BBC that the country has recently faced a “surge in the involvement of Palestinian minors in acts of terror”. However, the spokesperson acknowledged that methods and detention processes designed with adults in mind were “unsuitable for children”. It is therefore likely that Israel will need to make even further efforts to modify its handling of youngsters in the future, if it is not to face similar reports of ill-treatment in the future.