Juvenile Justice

Between January 2016 and December 2019, Palestinian authorities detained 1957 Palestinian children. 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed the Juvenile Protection Law into effect on February 4, 2016. The law unified and updated the existing juvenile justice system, bringing it in line with international child rights standards. Previously, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank had relied on a Jordanian law dating back to 1954. 

The Juvenile Protection Law updated the Palestinian juvenile legal system, recognizing minors accused of criminal offenses – those under the age of 18 – as victims in need of protection, rehabilitation, and reintegration into society, rather than as criminals deserving of punishment.

The best interests of the child serves as the guiding principle of the Juvenile Protection Law. The law mandates that children deprived of their liberty will be housed in rehabilitation facilities as opposed to prisons. The law also created juvenile courts and specialized units among the police, prosecutors, and judges for dealing with children in conflict with the law. However, the law has yet to be successfully implemented in full.

What We Do

DCIP provides legal aid to Palestinian children in conflict with the Palestinian law and works to increase awareness and implementation of international juvenile justice standards by training juvenile justice actors in the Palestinian legal system.

  • Campaign for national laws that meet international standards
  • Provide legal representation to children in conflict with Palestinian law
  • File complaints on behalf of Palestinian children to hold perpetrators to account
  • Provide child rights training to juvenile court judges, lawyers, police, and counselors.


Children in the Palestinian juvenile justice system report persistent ill-treatment at the hands of Palestinian forces and police and are routinely denied due process rights and other safeguards.

Between January and July 2020, DCIP collected questionnaires from 61 West Bank children detained by Palestinian actors to assess rights violations while in custody. In 44 cases (72 percent), children reported being subject to various types of ill-treatment. This includes being physically and psychologically abused and being denied food, water, and access to a bathroom, in addition to other forms of ill-treatment. The facilities in which children are detained are typically poor, and children are frequently detained in isolated cells in adult prisons or police stations, rather than at facilities specifically intended for juvenile detainees.

Research by DCIP reveals that violence occurs when arrests are conducted by unauthorized authorities, such as the Palestinian Preventative Security Forces. Under the Juvenile Protection Law, once an arrest is ordered and a warrant is issued, the Palestinian juvenile police force is the singular body legally sanctioned to conduct the arrest.

When a child is arrested while actively committing a crime by any party other than the Palestinian juvenile police, the child must immediately be turned over to the juvenile police and brought before a juvenile prosecutor within 24 hours.

In all 44 cases in which children reported ill-treatment, not one child was arrested by the appropriate Palestinian law enforcement authority. Palestinian Preventive Security Forces were the detaining authority in 72 percent of these cases while the remaining 28 percent of children were arrested by non-specialized Palestinian police units. 

Under Palestinian law, torture is generally prohibited under the Amended Palestinian Basic Law, and no person, whether free or deprived of their liberty, can be subjected to torture or any form of coercion. The Juvenile Protection law also forbids any “physical or mental torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” and the Palestinian Child Act of 2004 prohibits physical and mental torture and any other form of cruel or degrading or humiliating punishment against children.

Existing accountability measures concerning Palestinian forces include general but not specific prohibitions against torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and the Security Forces Service Law (2005) states that security forces members accused of ill-treatment may be considered for possible civil or criminal prosecution. More problematic still, there is no explicit prohibition on torture included in the list of acts prohibited by officers serving in the armed forces. 

The Palestinian legal framework does not provide a sufficient foundation upon which accountability processes may take place with meaningful outcomes, and complaint mechanisms are failing to provide accountability to children. Additionally, there is an absence of comprehensive or disaggregated data on complaints, investigations, prosecutions, and convictions in cases where a victim has alleged torture or ill-treatment by law enforcement, security, intelligence, and prison personnel, or of being subjected to administrative detention. 

In 2014, the State of Palestine acceded to the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), which has an absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. CAT defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person…” 

The State of Palestine also acceded to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 2014, which includes an absolute prohibition against torture as well as a range of other rights and protections specific to children. 

Arbitrary detention

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights dictates that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile.

Arrests are considered arbitrary under a set of conditions, as outlined by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, including the lack of arrest warrant or a legal basis for the deprivation of a person’s liberty, if the relevant authority did not order the arrest, or if the arrest is otherwise inconsistent with domestic laws and internationally enshrined rights.

Article 20 of the Juvenile Protection Law states that the juvenile prosecutor is the only party authorized to order a child’s detention and, once an arrest is so ordered, the Palestinian juvenile police force is the singular body legally sanctioned to carry out the arrest. As such, arrests ordered by other governmental officials or carried out by unauthorized parties, such as the Palestinian Preventative Security Forces, fall under the definition of an arbitrary arrest. 

According to DCIP documentation, the rights of juveniles processed by the juvenile police are rarely violated.


Palestinian authorities must respect and ensure basic due process rights and the absolute prohibition against torture and ill-treatment. From the moment of arrest, operations and procedures must be carried out in accordance with international juvenile justice standards, specifically the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Specifically, the State of Palestine must:

  • ensure the "best interests of the child” standard is fully implemented in all decisions involving children;

  • eliminate any practical obstacles preventing full implementation of rights and guarantees included in the Juvenile Protection Law;

  • conduct regular evaluations of juvenile justice actors’ practices, measuring how effectively these practices protect children’s inherent dignity and well-being; 

  • comprehensively implement clear and absolute prohibitions against torture throughout Palestinian law, alongside effective child-friendly complaint mechanisms and accountability measures aimed to end the torture and ill-treatment of children;

  • respect and ensure the absolute prohibition against torture and respect fundamental due process and fair trial guarantees, including that detention only be used as a measure of last resort and that children have access to parents and lawyers.

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