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.