Ramallah, June 10, 2015–Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP) participated in three days of advocacy in Washington last week, including a congressional briefing on the widespread ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention.
The June 2 briefing on Capitol Hill drew over 100 attendees, including staff from at least 30 different congressional offices. Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) gave opening remarks and speakers from the American Friends Service Committee, Human Rights Watch and DCIP discussed the systematic and widespread detention of Palestinian children in the Israeli military court system, calling upon Congress to take action.
Brad Parker, international advocacy officer and attorney at DCIP, explained that Israel is the only nation in the world that automatically and systematically prosecutes children in military courts. Since 2000, at least 8,000 Palestinian children have been arrested and prosecuted in the Israeli military detention system. Parker stressed that the purpose of military detention was control, not justice. “You don’t arrest kids in the middle of the night from their home if you’re interested in justice...If you’re interested in justice you provide oversight for arrest. You provide warrants. You provide children with access to counsel during interrogation, and you allow their family to be present during interrogation.”
Members of congress were urged to sign a letter to Secretary John Kerry, initiated by Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN), which asks the U.S. Department of State to make the protection of Palestinian children a priority in U.S-Israel relations.
Palestinian-American teen, Tariq Abu Khdeir, described his experience in East Jerusalem last summer when Israeli border police arrested him and beat him unconscious. Suha Abu Khdeir, Tariq’s mother, described the impact Tariq’s arrest and detention had on their family, and highlighted the lack of accountability for Tariq’s beating. “What happened to all the officers who participated in the beating of my son?,” she asked. “Where are they now? There’s no indication that any of them have had to face justice for the torture they have put my son and my family through.”
In video testimony presented during the briefing, four other Palestinian teenagers described being taken from their homes in the middle of the night and interrogated without access to a lawyer or the presence of a parent. These children were coerced into confessing to crimes through both verbal and physical abuse. DCIP has found that the majority of Palestinian child detainees are arrested from their homes at night, and that three out of four experience physical violence during arrest, transfer or interrogation.
On June 1, events kicked off with an interfaith vigil marking the International Day for the Protection of the Child. Following the briefing on June 2, the "No Way to Treat a Child" campaign screened a new short documentary film, Detaining Dreams, about Palestinian children in Israeli military detention. The film was produced by DCIP and American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). On June 3, DCIP participated in congressional office visits on Capitol Hill highlighting the widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention.
Events were organized by Defense for Children International Palestine, American Friends Service Committee, and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation as part of the "No Way To Treat A Child campaign."