Israeli occupation forces are arresting scores of Palestinian children each week, bringing the number of juveniles currently held in appalling conditions in Israeli detention centres and prisons to new record levels.
Information gathered by the Defence for Children International/Palestine Section Research & Information and Legal Units shows that since the start of 2006 over 230 Palestinian children have been arrested, with the Israeli army appearing to target in particular youths from the Bethlehem Nablus and Jenin areas of the West Bank. The scale of arrests over the past two months brings the number of Palestinian children in Israeli custody to almost 400. This represents a significant increase on the already-inexcusably high numbers of recent years and marks a further indication of the scant regard Israeli pays to Palestinian children’s rights and to international legal instruments.
In interviews with DCI/PS lawyers, children have told how upon their arrest they are handcuffed and blindfolded before being bundled into a military jeep and taken to interrogation centres in nearby settlements or military camps. Still dazed and confused from the arrest, and often having been beaten by soldiers inside the jeep, the children are taken immediately for interrogation in which police and soldiers hurl abuse, threats and sometimes kicks and punches to extract some form of admission from the terrified child. Confessions obtained from this brutalising procedure, which contravenes every legal and moral guideline regarding the questioning of suspects, are deemed sufficient evidence by the Israeli military authorities not only to charge the child, but to charge others implicated in the confession.
Following interrogation, child detainees are incarcerated in cramped and squalid conditions in detention centres across the West Bank to await trial — only a handful of cases are granted bail despite clear and universally-accepted international laws stating that the detention of juveniles should “be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time”. Although such centres are classified as temporary holding facilities, DCI/PS lawyers note that increasingly children sentenced for six months are serving the entire prison term in these detention centres, lacking even the most basic needs such as access to adequate food and washing facilities, and deprived of contact with family and healthcare professionals.
DCI/PS deplores the systematic abuse of the basic human rights of these detainees, first as children and secondly as prisoners. We call on Israel to cease at once its policy of targeting, arresting, abusing and imprisoning Palestinian children and to release immediately all Palestinian children held illegally in Israeli prisons and detention centres.
DCI/PS urges members of the international community, to take a stand on this urgent humanitarian issue. DCI/PS calls on governments to intervene immediately and demand Israel’s compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law and to ensure these violations of Palestinian children’s rights cease at once.