Palestinian Children- The Most Vulnerable Of Those Incarcerated By Israel
Five-year-old Muhammad Elayyan is summoned to the police station for interrogation. He leaves his house with his father, holding a toy and some snacks in case he gets hungry during the interrogation or detention for allegedly throwing stones.
Since 2000, ten to twelve thousand Palestinian children have been arbitrarily detained in the Israeli military detention system, mostly on charges of throwing stones at Israeli soldiers, a charge punishable by up to 20 years in prison. These children are denied fair trials and fundamental rights, kept for years in pretrial or administrative detention, and sometimes released after years of arbitrary incarceration.
In June 2020, the Annual Report of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict said, “The UN received affidavits from 166 children who reported ill-treatment and breaches of due process by Israeli forces, including physical violence and one threat of sexual violence”.
International human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned the Israeli military detention system and called for an end to the practice of detaining Palestinian children.
In February 2022, Amnesty International published its report declaring Israel an apartheid regime. The report says, “Palestinian children are among those subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including to obtain ‘confessions,’ and are denied access to counsel or family visits”.
UNICEF states that “the ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system is widespread, systematic, and institutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing”.
Furthermore, Palestinian children are frequently denied access to legal representation during the interrogation and court proceedings, and are often coerced into signing confessions written in Hebrew, a language they do not understand.
According to investigations carried out by Save the Children UK, 8 out of 10 Palestinian minor detainees reported physical beating, while 9 out of 10 reported verbal abuse. The study consulted 430 minor detainees over ten years. Their data shows that 81 percent endured physical beatings, 89 percent reported verbal abuse, 52 percent were threatened to harm their families, 86 percent were humiliated and ashamed with strip searches, 88 percent were denied timely and adequate health care, and almost 93 percent of them were denied contact with a lawyer during interrogation.
Israel is constantly breaching International Humanitarian and Human Rights Laws. A Commonwealth-sponsored report concludes: “Israel is in breach of eight of its international legal obligations: discrimination, best interests of the child, premature resort to detention, non-separation from adults, prompt access to lawyers, use of shackles, unlawful transfer and detention outside the occupied territory, and failure to translate applicable laws”.
The impact of these detentions on Palestinian children is profound. Many children suffer from long-term psychological damage due to the trauma of detention, abuse, and separation from their families. These detentions also interrupt their education and limit their opportunities for a better future.
Palestinian children deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and to have their basic rights protected. On Palestinian Prisoners Day, we must continue to raise awareness of the injustices faced by these children and work towards ending the Israeli military detention system that violates their fundamental rights.