Israeli security forces are excessively detaining Palestinian minors and using extreme force during the arrests and imprisonment. This conduct is in violation of Israel’s international commitments to preserving children’s rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
In 2018 alone, Israeli forces have detained fifty-two Palestinian minors and killed three others. Furthermore, in November 2017 alone, 313 Palestinian juveniles were detained by Israel Prison Services (IPS), bringing the total to over six thousand minors detained by IPS and Israel Defense Force since 2016.
Furthermore, the Israeli attacks on Palestinian children are taking lethal forms. Sixteen-year-old Musaab al-Tamimi was the first Palestinian to be killed this year when he was shot in the neck by Israeli soldiers in the village of Dier Nitham during a raid. During the protests in Nabi Saleh, fifteen-year-old Mohamed Tamimi was shot point blank in the face by Israeli forces. Another 15-year-old, identified as Qassem K, was shot in the head by Isreali forces using a rubber bullet resulting in a skull fracture.
The Palestinian minors imprisoned by Israeli officials also suffer from ill treatment, which Eqtaish, Defense for Children International – Palestine ‘s accountability program director, described as “sometimes amounting to torture.” For example, sixteen-year-old Fawzi al-Junaidi was photographed in a blindfold, being dragged by dozens of soldiers through the streets of Hebron. Perhaps the most famous Israeli prisoner is sixteen-year-old Ahed Tamimi who was arrested during a night-time raid after she was filmed slapping an Israeli soldier. Children as young as eleven are being grabbed by Israeli border police officers and taken to questioning in chokeholds.
A 2017 report entitled “Unprotected: Detention of Palestinian Teenagers in East Jerusalem” summarizes the extreme procedures that Israeli forces use when arresting minors. These procedures include pulling Palestinian teenagers from their beds in the middle of the night and subjecting the detained children to verbal and physical abuse for long periods of time, while their parents are completely excluded from law enforcement proceedings. Affidavits from formerly detained Palestinian children recount that parents were barred from accompanying their children in interrogations, that the arrested children were often forced to sign confessions in a language they do not understand, and that some arrested children were punched and kicked until they signed the confessions. One Palestinian child’s recount indicated that the Israeli border enforcement threw a stun grenade and proceeded to put him in a chokehold, place a bag over his head, and kicked him on the way to the interrogation.
The horrific treatment of Palestinian minors by Israeli law enforcement during arrests, interrogations and imprisonments clearly violates the children’s basic rights to physical integrity and fair proceedings. Israel ratified the ICCPR in 1991, and Article 14 of the Covenant requires courts to consider the age of defendants and the “desirability of promoting their rehabilitation.” Furthermore, Israel also ratified the CRC in 1991 which provides that juvenile defendants are “not to be compelled to give testimony or to confess guilt.” This provision has been interpreted to mean juvenile defendants have a right to request that their parents be present during interrogations, and that judges are to consider the absence of a parent or lawyer during questioning in considering the reliability of children’s confessions. Israel’s own Youth Law and military also require that law enforcement notifies parents of arrested children, to allow juvenile detainees to meet with a lawyer prior to questioning, and to allow a detained child’s parents to be present during questioning. However, Israeli law enforcement, however, continues to make exceptions to these rules because they consider certain actions, such as children throwing stones, to be “security offenses.”
By continuing to use deadly force against Palestinian children during arrests and barring them from having their parents present during interrogations, the Israeli forces are violating their international commitments. In light of the increased use of force against children, the international community should hold Israeli authorities accountable to these commitments and address the children’s rights violations.