Israel's detention of Palestinian children
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Israel’s Detention of Palestinian Children

Israel’s detention of Palestinian children is a recurring occurrence. Palestinian children in the occupant state of Israel are the only children in the world who are regularly convicted through a military system instead of a civilian one. Even the ones under the age of twelve are treated like criminal offenders and thrown in prisons such as Ofer, Damoun, Megiddo, and more. 

Ever since 1969, the Israeli Offense Forces have detained over one million Palestinians, counting over 50,000 children. The most prevalent offense is striking a stone, for which detainees face a prison sentence up to 20 years.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Society, more than 1,150 minors were unlawfully and violently detained by the Israeli Offense Forces in 2021. 160 of which are still imprisoned as security detainees, and some are kept under the internationally-banned administrative detention.

Figures published by Israeli Prison Service revealed that amongst the prisoners forced into isolation are 66 minors. All aforementioned prisoners were held in complete solitary confinement in the first ten months of 2021.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Society, more than 1,150 minors were unlawfully and violently detained by the Israeli Offense Forces in 2021. 160 of which are still imprisoned as security detainees, and some are kept under the internationally-banned administrative detention. Figures published by Israeli Prison Service revealed that amongst the prisoners forced into isolation are 66 minors. All aforementioned prisoners were held in complete solitary confinement in the first ten months of 2021.

Most of the detention happens at nighttime, some minors are arrested on their way to school at military checkpoints, where they get handcuffed, thrown on the floor, and stepped on their backs as well.

Adolescent detainees have reported that after arrest, they were taken to interrogation cells, where they were made to lie face down on the metal floor of military vehicles, were denied bathroom breaks, were refused food and water, and were exposed to physical, verbal, emotional, and –in some cases– sexual assault.

Defense for Children International – Palestine conducted an operation in which the center collected data that spanned five years from 681 child detainees, who described their arrest, interrogation, and detention experiences.

The results showed that:

  • Over half were arrested at night
  • 85% were not told why they got detained
  • 97% had their hands shackled; 88% were blindfolded
  • 75% were subjected to physical abuse
  • 58% they were exposed to verbal harassment, degradation, or intimidation
  • 54% were moved from the place of their arrest on the floor of a military vehicle
  • 83% were strip searched
  • 40% were denied adequate food and water
  • 31% were denied access to a toilet
  • 67% were not properly informed of their rights
  • 97% were interrogated without a family member present
  • 55% were shown or made to sign a paper in Hebrew
  • 36% were threatened or coerced
  • 25% were subjected to stress positions
  • 23% were detained in solitary confinement for interrogation purposes for a period of two or more days

Similarly, Save the Children consulted more than 470 previously jailed minors from across the West Bank over the last decade in their Defenseless research. The research found similar results to the DCIP. The majority of children were taken from their homes at nighttime, blindfolded, with their hands forcefully shackled behind their backs. Many of the interviewees stated that they were not told why they were being arrested or where they were being taken.

One of the interviewees is Abduallah, a Palestinian kid who got arrested six times as a child. He stated to Save the Children, “They destroyed the front door, entered my room, covered my face with a bag and took me away…They told my father that I would return the next day. I returned after 12 months”.

The brutal interrogation of Palestinian minors can be best shown in this video of detainee Ahmed Manasra who was 13 at that time. The interrogators kept yelling at the detained boy and repeatedly accused of attempted murder while throwing vulgarities at him.

The video elicited a strong reaction from Palestinians, who took to social media to express their horror at the treatment, and their admiration for what they called the teen’s endurance under tough questioning. Human rights organizations also expressed indignation about the video, claiming that the case was politicized and that human rights laws governing the treatment of minors were not being followed. 

The maltreatment doesn’t stop there. In February 2021, the DCIP reported that a 15-year-old Palestinian boy detained by the Israeli Occupation was sexually assaulted in an Israeli military prison. The assailed boy told the DCIP that he was sodomized with an object, beaten while blindfolded, and had his genitals twisted and punched. The assailant further threatened that the sexual violence would continue unless the boy confessed to the allegations against him.

“A man came to the room and told me his name was Captain Kamel,” the boy told DCIP. “He kicked me and punched me while shouting and saying I should tell him what I did. Whenever I told him I did not do anything, he would beat me harder. He threatened to shock me with electricity, but I told him I did not do anything.”

Additionally, even while the children are taken to trial –often is the first time the children get the opportunity to meet with their lawyers–, they are shackled and chained, which violates the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners Convention.

The protocol indicates that chains and irons should never be used, and that restraints should only be used as a precaution against attempt to flee during transfer, provided that they are removed when the prisoner appears before a judicial or administrative body.

The harsh reality is that a decent percentage of minor prisoners spend more than 20 years serving prison sentences in the Israeli custody; the traumatized, freed detainees are unable to regain their old lives back after release; and care-dependent infants are forced to stay with their mothers in prison.

Such dehumanizing maltreatment of children is a violation of of international norms such as The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT). And the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), both of which Israel signed in 1991. Yet, no actions were ever taken by the UN.