A new report from the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) claims that the mistreatment of Palestinian children in Israeli custody is “widespread, systematic and institutionalised.”
The report, which was made public on Wednesday, estimates that 700 children aged 12-17 are arrested by Israeli security forces each year in the occupied West Bank. The children, mostly young boys arrested or throwing stones, are detained and interrogated by the military, police and other security agents.
UNICEF claims that it has identified many “examples of practices that amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture”. This mistreatment begins with the arrest, which is often carried out by heavily armed soldiers in the middle of the night, and continues right through to sentencing.
“The pattern of ill-treatment includes … the practice of blindfolding children and tying their hands with plastic ties, physical and verbal abuse during transfer to an interrogation site, including the use of painful restraints,” the report said.
Some children endure threats and actual physical violence during interrogation, do not have proper access to a lawyer or their family during this questioning, and are often coerced into making a confession.
The mistreatment continues right through the trial:
“Treatment inconsistent with child rights continues during court appearances, including shackling of children, denial of bail and imposition of custodial sentences and transfer of children outside occupied Palestinian territory to serve their sentences inside Israel,” says the report