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Arbitrary by Default: Report Exposes Violations of Palestinian Children’s Rights in the Israeli Military Court System

On June 1st, 2023, Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP), an advocacy organization constantly working to advocate for the rights of Palestinian children with a significant presence in the West Bank, unveiled a groundbreaking report titled “Arbitrary by Default: Palestinian Children in the Israeli Military Court System.” This comprehensive report meticulously documents the systematic denial of fair trial rights to Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank. It highlights the urgent need for accountability and adherence to international humanitarian law, emphasizing the crucial role of documenting and publicly disclosing human rights violations in the pursuit of justice.

The report sheds light on the deep-rooted injustices prevailing within the Israeli military court system, specifically regarding the arrest, detention, interrogation, and prosecution of Palestinian children. Through an extensive collection of affidavits from 766 West Bank Palestinian children who were detained by Israeli forces between 2016 and 2022, DCIP provides a comprehensive examination of the systemic denial of fair trial rights.

The findings presented in the report are deeply disturbing, revealing a pattern of gross violations. It is revealed that three-quarters of the children endured physical violence following their arrest, while an alarming 97 percent faced interrogations without the presence of a parent. Shockingly, two-thirds of the children were not properly informed of their rights. These vulnerable children, subject to Israeli military law, were prosecuted within a court system lacking independence and impartiality, further exacerbating their plight.

Of great concern is the prevailing practice of arresting Palestinian children without providing arrest warrants, often based solely on suspicion. This report underscores the absence of independent oversight over arrests, as none of the 766 children reported being provided with an arrest warrant at the time of their detention. Equally distressing is the fact that only 14.5 percent of the children were informed of the reason for their arrest, leaving the majority in complete uncertainty about the grounds for their prolonged detention.

The report highlights yet another deeply troubling aspect—the failure of Israeli authorities to issue proper summons for investigation and questioning. Such summonses, which lack the necessary information on suspicions or charges, fall short of constituting valid arrest warrants. These practices unequivocally violate international law, as the report concludes that Israeli authorities routinely engage in arbitrary detentions without any legal justification.

More disturbing is the fact that Israel is the only country in the world that prosecutes children in the military courts. These courts, composed of military personnel subject to military discipline and promotion, fall significantly short of meeting the fundamental standards required for an unbiased tribunal. This distortion perpetuates a system of control that disguises itself as justice, perpetuating the gross violation of Palestinian children’s rights.

The key findings presented in this report serve as a stark reminder of the necessity of documenting human rights abuses and bringing them to the attention of the world. By shedding light on the systematic denial of fair trial rights, DCIP seeks to expose the inherent injustice and promote an international dialogue to rectify these grave violations.

As the international community grapples with these deeply troubling revelations, it becomes increasingly evident that the documentation and public presentation of human rights violations are not only crucial but essential in the pursuit of justice. By amplifying the voices of the affected children and advocating for their rights, DCIP aims to ensure that the world recognizes the urgency of addressing these systemic violations and holding those responsible accountable.

The report serves as a powerful testament to the significance of international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions, in safeguarding the rights and well-being of Palestinian children. Only through collective action and unwavering commitment can the path toward justice and a more equitable future be paved.

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