Israel prosecutes between 500 and 700 Palestinian children in military courts each year.
Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank, like adults, face arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment under an Israeli military detention system that denies them basic rights.
Since 1967, Israel has operated two separate legal systems in the same territory. In the occupied West Bank, Israeli settlers are subject to the civilian and criminal legal system whereas Palestinians live under military law.
Israel applies civilian criminal law to Palestinian children in East Jerusalem. No Israeli child comes into contact with the military courts.
Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that automatically and systematically prosecutes children in military courts that lack fundamental fair trial rights and protections. Israel prosecutes between 500 and 700 Palestinian children in military courts each year.
Since 2000, Israeli military authorities have detained, interrogated, prosecuted, and imprisoned approximately 13,000 Palestinian children, according to estimates by DCIP.
Ill-treatment in the Israeli military detention system remains “widespread, systematic, and institutionalized throughout the process,” according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report Children in Israeli Military Detention Observations and Recommendations.
An average of 263 Palestinian children aged 12-17 years old were detained by Israeli authorities at any one time between January 2016 and September 2020, based on data released by the Israel Prison Service (IPS). During this period, an average of 51 young Palestinian children (12-15) were detained.
Israeli military courts have jurisdiction over any person older than 12 years.
Children typically arrive to interrogation bound, blindfolded, frightened, and sleep deprived.
Children often give confessions after verbal abuse, threats, physical and psychological violence that in some cases amounts to torture.
Israeli military law provides no right to legal counsel during interrogation, and Israeli military court judges seldom exclude confessions obtained by coercion or torture.
A child is considered any person under 18 years, according to international norms.
Between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2022, DCIP collected sworn affidavits from 766 child detainees detained by Israeli forces from the occupied West Bank and prosecuted in Israeli military courts describing their arrest, interrogation, and detention experiences.
3 out of 4 Palestinian child detainees experience physical violence at the hands of Israeli forces.
59% were arrested at night
86% were not informed of the reason for their arrest
97% had their hands bound
89% were blindfolded
75% were subjected to physical violence
58% were subjected to verbal abuse, humiliation, or intimidation during or after their arrest
54% were transferred from the place of their arrest on the floor of a military vehicle
80% were strip searched
42% were denied adequate food and water
31% were denied access to a toilet
66% were not properly informed of their rights
97% were interrogated without a family member present
55% were shown or made to sign a paper in Hebrew, a language most Palestinian children do not understand
36% were threatened or coerced
25% were subjected to stress positions
23% were detained in solitary confinement for interrogation purposes for a period of two or more days
In 1991, Israel ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which stipulates that children should only be deprived of their liberty as a measure of last resort, must not be unlawfully or arbitrarily detained, and must not be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Despite various degrees of engagement by U.N. human rights bodies including the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee Against Torture, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, as well as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children in Armed Conflict, and numerous governmental and non-governmental organizations, Israeli authorities have persistently failed to implement practical changes to end its unlawful practices towards Palestinian child detainees. Reforms undertaken thus far have been largely cosmetic rather than substantive.
What We Do
Since 1991, our lawyers have provided legal representation to Palestinian children prosecuted in Israeli military courts. We defend and protect Palestinian child detainees and work to end the military arrest and prosecution of Palestinian children by Israeli forces.
- Provide free legal representation to Palestinian children charged in Israeli military courts
- Document ill-treatment and torture by Israeli forces
- Pursue accountability by exposing violations and demanding action by policymakers
What You Can Do
In 2015, we created the No Way to Treat a Child campaign as a joint project with the American Friends Service Committee. The campaign seeks to end Israel’s prolonged military occupation of Palestinians by organizing and supporting an extensive network of people demanding immediate protections and an end to the Israeli military detention and prosecution of Palestinian children in Israeli military courts