A belief that every Palestinian child is a potential terrorist may be leading to a “spiral of injustice” and breaches of international law in Israel's treatment of child detainees in military custody, a delegation of eminent British lawyers has concluded in an independent report backed by the Foreign Office.
The nine-strong delegation, led by the former high court judge Sir Stephen Sedley and including the UK’s former attorney-general Lady Scotland, found that “undisputed facts” pointed to at least six violations of the UN convention on the rights of the child, to which Israel is a signatory. It was also in breach of the fourth Geneva convention in transferring child detainees from the West Bank to Israeli prisons, the delegation said.
Its report, Children in Military Custody, released on Tuesday, was based on a visit to Israel and the West Bank last September funded and facilitated by the Foreign Office and the British consulate in Jerusalem.
It makes 40 specific recommendations concerning the treatment of Palestinian child detainees.
The first included night-time arrests, the use of blindfolds and painful plastic wrist ties, physical and/or verbal abuse, the failure to be informed of the right to silence or to see a lawyer, solitary confinement, self-incrimination, children being made to sign statements in Hebrew which they could not understand and extremely restricted access to family. “In this process, every year hundreds of Palestinian children are traumatised, sometimes irreversibly, are denied part of the their schooling and then live at ongoing risk of much harsher punishment if they are arrested again,” the report said.
In the second account it heard, children are informed of their rights, treated appropriately, subject to procedural safeguards, and violence and threats are forbidden. “In custody, children receive education to such a high standard that Palestinian children have been known to offend in order to access it,” the delegation was told.
Among the report’s recommendations are:
• An end to night-time arrests, except in extreme and unusual circumstances.
• Children should be told of their rights in their own language.
• Children should never be blindfolded or hooded.
• Single plastic hand ties should never be used.
• The prohibition on violent, threatening or coercive conduct towards children should be strictly observed.
• Children should not be shackled at any time.
• Any confession in a language other than the child’s own should not be accepted as evidence.
• Solitary confinement should never be used “as a standard mode of detention or imprisonment”.
• All Palestinian children should be held in facilities in the occupied territories, and not transferred to Israel, a breach of article 76 of the fourth Geneva convention.
(read the accounts of former child detainees here)
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