[17 July 2012] – In a letter dated 29 June 2012, the UK Foreign Office responded to concerns raised by a group of UK lawyers about the forcible transfer of Palestinian children to prisons located inside Israel. The transfer of Palestinian prisoners (adults and children) to detention facilities inside Israel violates article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention for which personal criminal liability applies.
In the letter, the UK Foreign Office responded that:
“The British Government shares your concerns about the treatment of Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons and we have a continual dialogue with the Israeli authorities on this question. […] The Government agrees that Israel has legal obligations as an Occupying Power with respect to the Occupied Palestinian Territories under applicable international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention. […] We agree with you that Israel’s policy of detaining Palestinians within Israel is contrary to Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and that domestic law cannot be used as a justification for violations of international law.”
According to Israeli Prison Service figures released in June 2012, 85 percent of Palestinian prisoners, including children, were detained inside Israel. Given that this violation has continued for decades, questions need to be asked as to what additional steps the UK Government is considering to ensure that it complies with its own legal obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention, as dialogue does not appear to be working when it comes to the forcible transfer of prisoners.