Ramallah, June 24, 2015–Nineteen members of Congress sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week urging him to prioritize the issue of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention.
The letter, initiated by Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN), noted that “Israel's military detention system targeting children is an anomaly in the world,” and that UNICEF has found ill-treatment of Palestinian children is “widespread, systemic and institutionalized” throughout the detention process. The lawmakers urged “the Department of State to elevate the human rights of Palestinian children to a priority status in [the U.S.’s] bilateral relationship with the Government of Israel.”
“Israeli forces detain and abuse Palestinian children with impunity, yet continue to receive military aid from the U.S. government,” said Khaled Quzmar, DCIP’s general director. “While action is long overdue, this letter is a significant step by U.S. lawmakers to ensure their government is not complicit in the widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children.”
In early June, DCIP participated in three days of advocacy in Washington as part of the “No Way to Treat a Child” campaign, 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. Events were organized by DCIP, the American Friends Service Committee, and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation as part of the “No Way to Treat a Child” campaign.
The "No Way to Treat a Child" campaign recognizes that no child should be prosecuted in military courts that lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees, and seeks to raise awareness among U.S. audiences on the widespread and systematic ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention.
Evidence collected by DCIP during 2014 showed that more than three-quarters of Palestinian child detainees endured some form of physical violence between the period of their arrest and interrogation, with half of them also strip searched. In 93 percent of cases, children were denied access to legal counsel, and rarely informed of their rights, particularly their right against self-incrimination.
International juvenile justice standards, which Israel has obliged itself to implement by signing 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. Israel is the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts that lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees.
Since the occupation of Palestinian territory in 1967 by Israeli forces, Palestinian children have been charged with offenses under Israeli military law and tried in military courts. Israeli military law only applies to the Palestinian population even though Israeli settlers live in the same territory. No Israeli children come into contact with the Israeli military court system.