Israeli forces detain record number of Palestinian children without charge

Apr 30, 2024
Israeli security forces enter a Palestinian home in the village of Salem, east of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank, on October 2, 2022. (Photo: Jaafar Ashtiyeh / AFP)

Ramallah, April 30, 2024—Israeli forces are detaining 61 Palestinian children in administrative detention.

Israeli forces are holding 61 Palestinian children in administrative detention as of March 31, according to information shared by the Israel Prison Service. This is a record number since DCIP began monitoring child administrative detainees in 2008. At least half of these children were detained after October 7, 2023, as Israeli forces escalated military operations throughout the occupied West Bank.

“Detaining children indefinitely, without charge or trial, amounts to arbitrary detention,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP. “Since October 7, Israeli forces have accelerated their arrest campaigns against Palestinian children and detained a record number of children without charge.”

Around one in three Palestinian child detainees are held under administrative detention orders, according to the Israel Prison Service. At the end of March, Israeli forces were detaining 194 Palestinian children.

The rise in the number of Palestinian children subjected to administrative detention coincides with the alarming conditions faced by Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. The situation of Palestinian prisoners has become increasingly worse, with children reporting very harsh conditions since October 7. 

Administrative detention is a form of imprisonment without charge or trial regularly used by Israeli authorities to detain Palestinians, including children. Palestinian children held under administrative detention orders are not presented with charges, and their detention is based on secret evidence that is neither disclosed to the child nor their attorney, preventing them from preparing a legal challenge to the detention and its alleged basis, according to documentation collected by DCIP.

Arbitrarily depriving Palestinian children of their right to liberty through the use of administrative detention, which is the imprisonment of individuals for prolonged periods without charge or trial, often based on secret evidence amounting to an arbitrary detention.

Administrative detention orders are issued by the Israeli military commander of the area, or a military officer delegated by the military commander, and can last up to six months, but there is no limit to the number of times an administrative detention order can be renewed. The orders are approved by military court judges giving the illusion of independent legal oversight, yet Israeli military courts fail to meet international standards for independence and impartiality because military court judges are active duty or reserve officers in the Israeli military.

In October 2015, following a three-year suspension of the practice, Israeli authorities began arresting and imprisoning Palestinian children without charge pursuant to administrative detention orders. 

Administrative detention is permitted in strictly limited circumstances in only the most exceptional cases for “imperative reasons of security” when there is no other alternative. The practice should never be used as an alternative to filing charges or as a general deterrent for future activity.

International juvenile justice standards, which Israel has obliged itself to implement by ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, demand that children should only be deprived of their liberty as a measure of last resort and must not be unlawfully or arbitrarily detained. 

Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes between 500 and 700 children in military courts each year that lack fundamental fair trial rights.

An estimated 3,660 Palestinian prisoners are currently detained pursuant to administrative detention orders, according to Addameer.

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News | Military Detention
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