4 August 2003 — Defence for Children International/Palestine Section believes that there are only 13 child prisoners’ names on the list of 344 Palestinian political prisoners due for release by the Israeli government this week as part of the roadmap to peace process. Nine of these children were on the list of 183 sentenced prisoners to be released and another 4 children were on the list of 161 administrative detainees.
As with the adult prisoners slated for release, nearly all of the child prisoners on the list are scheduled for release in the very near future, suggesting that this is another hollow concession by the Israeli side. Eight of the children were due for release in August, three in September, one in early October and the last in March 2004. All together, only 13 children will be released out of a total of 443 prisoners (including criminal prisoners), while around 350 Palestinian children will remain in Israeli prisons and detention centres. In this prisonersrelease, the Israeli government has failed once again to demonstrate goodwill and a true commitment to a just peace.
The children slated for released are:
DCI/PS condemns Israel’s hollow commitment to the peace process and demands an urgent and unconditional release of all Palestinian child political prisoners as a sign of its goodwill. Children remain the most vulnerable group affected by the policies of occupation. Nowhere is this more so than within the Israeli military judicial system.
Reprehensible Prison Conditions
The situation is all the more pressing because of the deteriorating conditions in various Israeli prisons and detention centres. A lack of adequate food and water, a shortage of adequate clothing, the prohibition of family visits, arbitrary cruelty and inhumane treatment are daily trials faced by the children being held in these facilities.
One of them is 15 year-old Mohammed Salem Al-Harbawi from Hebron, who was arrested last week on 20/07/03. He was taken to Atzion detention centre where he has been visited by a lawyer, but has been unable to see or communicate with his family.
The unhygienic conditions in this centre mean that most inmates, including Mohammad, suffer from skin diseases, including boils. Mohammed was affected so badly that he was taken for hospital treatment on 28/07/03. After the doctor had examined him, Israeli border guards took him back to the prison. On the way, the guards stopped the jeep and started to attack him inside the vehicle. The five guards beat him to such an extent that he lost consciousness.
Mohammed’s experience is typical of the cruel treatment and harsh living conditions inside Israeli prisons and detention centres. In this, as in many aspects of its treatment of Palestinian juveniles, the Israeli government is in violation of international law, including the UN Convention against Torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Defence for Children International/Palestine Section is an independent, Palestinian non-governmental organization, established in 1992 to promote and protect the rights of Palestinian children as articulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as in other international instruments. DCI defends between 60-70% of all Palestinian minors who come before the Israeli courts. For more details see www.dci-pal.org.