[4 September 2012] – On 16 August, a Palestinian taxi carrying six people, including two children, was hit and destroyed by a Molotov cocktail. The incident occurred in the West Bank close to the Israeli settlement block of Gush Etzion. All six occupants were injured, two seriously. On 26 August, three Israeli settler children, aged between 12 and 13 years, were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attack. One boy was conditionally released by a civilian judge on 29 August, and the other two were conditionally released the following day.
This case highlights the discriminatory nature of the legal systems applied by the Israeli authorities in the West Bank. Whilst settler children are processed through Israel’s juvenile justice system and generally released on bail, Palestinian children accused of similar offences are prosecuted in military courts which deny children bail in at least 87 percent of cases, and have a conviction rate of 99.74 percent.
A recent report by a group of leading UK lawyers, including a former Attorney General and High Court Judge, into Israel’s treatment of children held in military custody, confirmed that under international law, no state is entitled to discriminate between those over whom it exercises penal jurisdiction on the basis of race or nationality. However, as the following table demonstrates, this is precisely what the Israeli authorities are doing in relation to Palestinian and Israeli children living in the West Bank.
|#||Event||Civilian juvenile justice system||Military court system|
|1|| Minimum age of criminal responsibility.
|2||Minimum age for a custodial sentence.||14||12|
|3||Age of majority.||18||16-18|
|4||Legal right to have a parent present during interrogation.||Generally yes
|5||Legal right to have a lawyer present during interrogation.||No||No|
|6||Legal right to have interrogation audio-visually recorded.||Partial||No|
|7||Maximum period of detention before being brought before judge.||12-24 hours||4 days|
|8||Maximum period of detention without access to a lawyer.||48 hours||90 days|
|9||Maximum period of detention without charge.||40 days||188 days|
|10||Maximum period of time between charge and trial.||6 months||2 years|
|11||Percentage of cases in which bail is denied.||20%||87%|
|12||Percentage of cases in which a custodial sentence is imposed.||6.5%||90%|
Furthermore, according to Israeli Prison Service statistics, over 50 percent of Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military are transferred to prisons inside Israel in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that prohibits such transfers. This violation was recently confirmed in writing by the UK Foreign Office, and attracts personal criminal liability for all those involved in the transfer and detention process.
Finally, under international law the Israeli military authorities are obliged to translate all military orders affecting Palestinians into Arabic, but frequently fail to do so, casting further doubt on the legal efficacy of the entire military system that has now been operating in the West Bank for 45 years.
• Children in Military Custody
• Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted