11-year-old girl beaten to death by father in the Gaza Strip

Palestinian police officers in Gaza City wear face masks to mitigate the spread COVID-19 on March 22, 2020. (Photo: Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

Ramallah, August 19, 2020—An 11-year-old Palestinian girl was beaten to death in early July by her father in the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Al-Tuffah.

On July 9, 2020, 11-year-old Amaal al-Jamali was beaten to death with a stick by her father, Ahmad Medhat al-Jamali, according to information collected by Defense for Children International - Palestine. An autopsy revealed that Amaal suffered injuries to her head, hands, feet, and chest, including a skull fracture. Amaal was accused of taking 100 NIS ($30) from her stepmother, Wafa’ Kassab. She succumbed to her injuries at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on the afternoon of July 9.

Amaal and her two siblings had over the past year attempted to report their father’s physical violence against them. The al-Jamali children had sought protection at a Palestinian Civil Defense center near their home, confusing it for a police station, according to a civil defense worker interviewed by DCIP. The Palestinian Civil Defense is a Palestinian government agency responsible for emergency and rescue services.

Around one year ago, Amaal went to the Civil Defense workers to get help, and employees alerted law enforcement officials at the local Al-Tuffah and Al-Daraj police station. The police officials were aware of ongoing physical violence against the children, a civil defense employee told DCIP. Despite this, the police officials asked that Amaal be returned to her father, the civil defense worker told DCIP.

“The State of Palestine is responsible for preventing violence against children and offering them protection and providing rehabilitation when violations occur,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program Director at DCIP. “This tragic incident exhibits a fundamental failure by Palestinian authorities to uphold the best interests of the child and child protection obligations in existing domestic and international law.”

Palestinian law enforcement officials at the Al-Tuffah and Al-Daraj police station seemingly failed to take any meaningful measures to protect Amaal and her siblings, according to information collected by DCIP. Confronted with reports of physical violence in the home, an investigation should have been initiated and protective measures should have been taken to ensure the children were not in any physical or mental danger. 

The failure to investigate prior allegations and returning Amaal to the care of her father on a prior occasion ultimately had grave consequences. Palestinian authorities should be held accountable and protective measures must be implemented in accordance with international child rights standards.

In 2014, the State of Palestine acceded to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. In so doing, the State of Palestine agreed to respect, protect, promote, and fulfill the enumerated rights—including by adopting or reforming laws and policies in line with the provisions of the human rights treaties. 

In an effort to expand measures and guidance to end violence against children, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, a committee of independent experts that reviews compliance with the CRC, issued General Comment No. 13 in 2011. It reaffirms that states have an obligation to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence while in the care of parents or others, including investigating and punishing those responsible.

In 2019, the rate of physical violence against children between 12 and 17 years old in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was 44 percent, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. For children under 11 years old, 65 percent have experienced physical violence. Inadequate protection mechanisms and lack of laws to adequately address domestic and gender-based violence are the primary reason for these high rates. 

The de facto Hamas government in the Gaza Strip applies an outdated British law enacted in 1937 rather than the Palestinian Juvenile Protection Law that was signed into law in 2016 by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which meets modern international standards for safeguarding children’s rights. 

Likewise, institutionalized child protection response mechanisms established by relevant Palestinian Authority-controlled government ministries located in the West Bank have not been replicated in the Gaza Strip in part due to the ongoing political divide between the Fatah-led government in the West Bank and the Hamas-led government in the Gaza Strip.   

Additionally, Israel’s now 13-year closure of the Gaza Strip compounds the impacts of social issues by creating an acute human-made humanitarian crisis with high levels of unemployment, displacement, inadequate housing and infrastructure, and food insecurity that affect the wellbeing and development of Palestinian children living in the tiny coastal enclave.

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