Defenceless: Palestinian children in Israeli military detention

Lana Ramadan is the Advocacy and Campaigns Senior Office at Save the Children International oPt country office. Lana has extensive technical expertise and knowledge on the detention file in the oPt context. She worked for several Palestinian human rights organizations before joining SCI, including Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association as well as Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights. Lana has a Master’s Degree in Human Rights from the London School of Economics and Political Science, as well a BA in International Law and Human Rights from the Al-Quds Bard College.

Jude Lanchin qualified as a solicitor in 1994, after a career in community-based work. For a number of years, she worked with the young people on the North London Broadwater Farm Estate who were charged after the 1985 riot. She subsequently established and ran a community project in Islington for former prisoners.

Tareq Shrourou is Executive Director & Principal Lawyer of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR), a UK legal charity that works on legal projects to protect and promote Palestinian human rights. Before joining LPHR as its first executive director, Tareq worked as a solicitor specialising in asylum and human rights law, and co-managed the public legal advice service of the UK human rights organisation, Liberty. He holds an LLM in Public International Law from King’s College London. 

Click left and right arrows to go through Lana Ramadan’s slides

Lana Ramadan:
Hi everyone. I’m Lana, speaking to you from Palestine from Save the Children’s country office in the oPt. I started this presentation with this video because it more or less summarises the journey children go through, from the moment to arrest, to transfer, interrogation and it doesn’t show more but it actually summarises a lot of the ill treatment that happens.

Before I just start with this kind of overview, I also want to share because not everyone experiences the same experience like Hassan, the one we’ve seen in the video, others have different experiences. I’ll share just another short story about another child. His name is Ahmed. Ahmed is a young boy I’ve met a few weeks ago and he told me when he was arrested for the first time when he was 13. He told me it was after midnight, when many soldiers broke into his home, searched it while destroying his family’s belongings. He told me that his mother tried to reach out to hug him, but soldiers pushed her to the side. Ahamed thought of this hug every day during his detention period.

This is just for you to hear what children say on how they feel about these kinds of experiences. As you see in the slides, every year around 500 to 700 Palestinian children come into contact to the Israeli military court system. In fact, while I’m speaking now, there are around 160 Palestinian children in detention. The majority of them are charged, but they’re still waiting for their trial because they haven’t been sentenced yet.

Israel is the only country in the whole world with that systematically prosecute children in military court and the most common charge that children face is throwing stones, which has a really high, maximum penalty. The maximum penalty is 20 years. So, 20 years isn’t applied all the time, but it gives them the chance to give higher sentences for children, for throwing stones.

The law enforcement system in Israel treats Palestinian children as guilty until proven innocent. For example, the majority of children maintain their innocence, but eventually they end up entering a guilty plea in order to reduce their sentence. This is one of the reasons why there is a really high conviction rate. One last point for you to know, generally speaking, many children detainees are transferred from the occupied territory from Palestine to Israeli territory. There are a few prisons and only one of them is in the West Bank and children are detained in, the other two are in Israeli territory, which is a violation of International Law.

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As you’ve seen from the video and the opening slide, there is significant evidence of ill treatment of children who come into contact with the Israeli military detention. Such evidence comes from  research done from lawyers, organisations, including DCI, B’Tselem and others. However, there has been less research conducted on the broader impact of detention on children’s lives, including their mental and physical health, their relationships, place in society and future prospects.

In light of this, we’ve decided to conduct research with the former child detainees across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, using both qualitative and quantitative methodology. We’ve produced our first report Defenceless in November 2020. And we’re currently in the process of launching another report, which specifically studies the impact of family separation on child detainees and their families.

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Children were asked to describe their journey through the detention system, from the time of arrests through transfer, interrogation, detention, and then attempts to reintegrate back in their society. Nearly all children said that they’ve experienced ill treatment at some stage in this process including widespread use of solitary confinement, physical, emotional violence, coercive interrogations, and denial of due process rights.

Like Ahmed, the one I’ve spoken about in the beginning, more than half of the children were arrested from their home during night raids, and that would be between the hours of midnight and dawn. Another child, Abdullah, for example, he told me 2soldiers destroyed the main door, entered my room, covered my face with the bag and took me. They forced the rest of my family members into one room while they arrested me. They told my father that I will return tomorrow. I returned after 12 months.”

Also, during focus group discussions with children, it emerged that the shock of being woken up and arrested that night compounded the stress suffered during transfer and interrogation. Children felt disoriented, confused, and exhausted. Children who were arrested at night are more likely to face sleeping disorders or problems, insomnia long after they have been released from prison. Many children who were arrested at night, they weren’t allowed to sleep before they began their interrogations with the Israeli officers.

Not only are the children woken up and arrested in the middle of the night, almost all children told us that their hands were tied behind their back with plastic ties, even though in 2010, Israeli regulations changed in paper and said that children will have their hands tied, if only necessary, in front of them. But according to the research didn’t happen and the majority were blindfolded or hooded.

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From the very beginning of this experience, when the arrest happens, children show how being separated from their families has great impact on them. The vast majority of children were again, detained without being summoned in advance, in the middle night. This highly distressing experience resulted in most children reporting, feeling unsafe, anxious, afraid. 66% of the children also reported that these distressing experiences during the arrest resulted in them feeling guilt, that they exposed their family to danger, or that they caused harm to their families and that their parents cannot protect them.

Like Khaled, for example, who’s just 15 years old, he said, “you can’t help but feel bad about what you are putting your parents through. When I was detained, sadness took over our home. My parents slept in my room, missing me and feeling sad that we were apart.”

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Children are commonly transferred. After the arrest, they’re commonly transferred between various detention facilities and interrogation centres, and the trip can last for many hours. Children reported being handcuffed with metal chairs, to lie face down on the metal floors of the military vehicles or strip searched, denied bathroom breaks, denied food and water physically assaulted during these transfers.

Then after the transfers, they usually go through interrogations. In interrogations, they’re different from a child to the other in terms of length, but in general, children described a coercive and intimidating environment, which as you can see in the slide, 52% were threatened with harm to their family. 89% reported experiencing verbal abuse, 86% reported being strip searched, and 56% were held in solitary confinement.

Many children encountered being asked to sign documents that they did not understand as they were written in Hebrew. Children would not have a lawyer or a parent present during their interrogation sessions. They’re not reminded of their rights, and they’re pressured to incriminate themselves or others, like Sami, a child who told us that interrogators wanted him to confess to a crime that he didn’t commit. They wanted to put pressure on him so that he could confess false crimes about his friends as well. This often happens under the threat of violence to the children themselves to family members. Sometimes the threat would be of harsher punishments and none of those children we’ve consulted told us that their interrogations were recorded.

As you’ve seen in the slide, our research shows that more than half of the children were held in solitary confinement, even though under no circumstances whatsoever, a child should be held in solitary confinement. I remember in fall 2020, when I spoke to Zayed who was held in solitary confinement for around 40 days, he didn’t see anyone during this whole period, but interrogators and prison guards. Not only was Zayed scared, anxious and alone, he was then diagnosed with COVID 19, less than a week after his release from solitary confinement. So forced to self-isolate again. It was so difficult for him to speak. He was so scared. Didn’t want to see or speak to anyone. I remember talking to his counselor who was also with us when we met him. All he was thinking of is his fear of being arrested again.

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During the detention itself as well, the experiences also bear many other difficulties and how children described the detention, the words they’ve used is torturous. One of the most difficult experiences a person can endure – dehumanising, humiliating, confusing. You can see that the ill treatment is not limited to physical or emotional abuse during arrest, transfer interrogations, but it also is the denial of services. Children are even less likely to receive healthcare than receive legal services while in detention. With an overwhelming 88% reporting that they did not receive the healthcare they’ve needed. And for the small minority that received healthcare, children said that it was not appropriate or timely treatment.

Also, more than half of the children were not allowed to see their families while they were detained. Most of them reported feelings of fear, isolation, depression, and one of the most common, frequent reported practices by the Israeli authorities was emphasising to children that they are all alone, abandoned by their family, friends, and society. Children recall that prison guards would falsely tell them that their families were refusing to visit them, making them feel abandoned and isolated.

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Despite the Israeli prison services regulations that state that children are entitled to have family visits every two weeks, obviously consultations with children and families show that this does not happen in reality. Children reported long periods of time, weeks, months passing before they were able to contact their parents, whether on the phone or in person. 17-year-old Salem explained to us saying, “I felt sad whenever I heard good or bad news related to my family. I couldn’t be part of it.”

Another child told us that he knew that his sister was going to have her wedding while he was in detention. He was so sad that he couldn’t participate, so he asked other detained children to dance with him that day. Some children can serve their entire sentence without seeing their families at all.

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So unsurprisingly, these experiences have a massive toll on children’s health, both mental and physical. Children said that they experience the impact of detention more explicitly when they attempt to reintegrate back the families and lives and society, generally. The majority of the children reported that they do not feel safe outside their home after their release or cannot express their emotions and feelings or they experience insomnia and some difficulty sleeping among like other things.

Some children, a lot of them said that they have changed forever due to this experience. Like Nur, I met Nur around a month ago and she kept on telling me that she completely changed after her arrest. Nur was arrested when she was 15 years old, along with her younger sister who was 13 years old. They were arrested in the middle of the night, woken up from their home and they were kept in solitary confinement, each in a separate cell. Nur told me how she had never slept outside her home, or even in a room by herself until that first night in solitary confinement. She told me how scared she was how all she could think of is her younger sister alone in a cell somewhere. She felt responsible to protect her, but she told me she couldn’t do anything. After her release, she said she suffered so many difficulties, including difficulty sleeping, had constant nightmares, felt isolated from her friends and specific, but also family. She was scared and anxious whenever she would hear any unexpected sound thinking that it is soldiers coming back to arrest her again.

With the sense of security shaken, one can only imagine the profound repercussions on children’s mental and physical health, which can manifest in physical symptoms such as uncontrollable shaking, excessive crying, chest pains as well. But also, one of the most reported barriers that child detainees face when trying to overcome all these symptoms and traumatic experiences is how widespread the practice of child detainees is.

One boy, Bilal, described his challenges at moving past his time in prison at the age of 14, by telling us, “I remember the details. I try not to think about them, but it’s impossible because every time a child is arrested, I remember my own experience.”  

While former detainees are trying to move from their experiences, many re-experience their detention when they witness or hear about other children being detained. This only worsen this feeling of nowhere is safe. But also the continuous presence of Israeli soldiers across the West Bank is a trigger for children. Not only for the traumatic memories of detention themselves, but also reminding children that their safety continues to be at the centre of the policies of the occupation.

For example, Omar is 14 years old, he lives in one of the refugee camps and he told us, “When an Israeli jeep army enters the camp, I get anxious and afraid that they are coming to arrest me again.” So, this, again, constant reminder. Like another child Fathima who got arrested from a checkpoint going to her school. Now, she tells us every time she goes to school, crosses the checkpoint, she’s anxious and afraid, reminded of the experience, but also scared that she’ll be arrested again.

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But still these traumatic experiences that many children face in detention have not deemed their hope for the future or determination to have a productive and fulfilling life. Many strongly care about their future and are determined to make the right decisions in their lives. Children still feel joy and a sense of accomplishment when they succeed in school or work. Mais, a former child detainee told us, “Despite the circumstances, I must continue to study because it is a tool which makes girls stronger and gives us a more important place in society. Another former child detainee Amir also told us, “we have the right to continue our education or to work in any field we want, and we can do it. Not every former child detainee needs to work in construction sites.” Also, children do show the need and determination for a better future.

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Finally, we believe that no child should be prosecuted in military court, which lack comprehensive child and juvenile justice standards. We call on the government of Israel to respect International Law and to end the detention of children on their military laws and their prosecution in military courts.

We also have a list of recommendations in our report which also includes practical safeguards that should be adopted to improve the protection of children currently held in detention. Our report also specifies recommendations for the international community, such as urging the government of Israel to end military detention and take steps to adopt practical safeguards to protect children. This includes ensuring that children are detained only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest time possible, ending the systematic ill treatment of children immediately in the practice of nighttime arrests and ensure that in all other cases, arrest summons are used and ensure that children have timely access to an independent lawyer of their choice, as well as parent or guardian, prior and during their interrogations.

These are just examples of recommendations we have, but we do have others. Only when these changes have been made, can damage to generations of Palestinian children be avoided.

Jude Lanchin:
Good afternoon, everyone. Could I also say, that it would be helpful for you to share the 2012 report that we did because although it is old, it certainly reflects sadly the continuum of all these issues and listening to Lana, very interesting as it was, very sadly, it is all of the same information, experiences, material, recommendations that we wrote about, heard about in 2011, some 11 years ago. While I don’t want to not be upbeat, I have to make it clear that this has been going on for such a very long time. There have been so many different people involved. You’ll hear about Tareq’s involvement and efforts that we’ve made with the UK government.

However, what is positive is that reports and investigations are continuing and that there is still a momentum for change.

Very briefly, because there is so much I could say about the delegation. I will just give a quick overview. In 2011, a delegation of family law and criminal lawyers, solicitors and barristers went to the oPt and to parts of Israel to conduct an investigation or an evaluative analysis of Israeli military law and practice as affecting Palestinian children. Even though at that stage, children over 16 were in fact, not treated as adults within the military court, which did change, we were looking at children in the internationally accepted definition as those up to 18.

After we had produced some recommendations, albeit not the full report, there was a change in Israel. I would say only changes and therefore an absolute tinkering with the system to recognise that young people were up to the age of 18, although, and so are now dealt with in the military court. However, there is still a distinction as Lana would be able to confirm and Tareq as to who is considered to be a juvenile, which is up to 14 and who is then considered to be a so-called young adult, between 14 and 18.

There is as much done as possible by the Israeli government, as far as I can see, to not only change and not only act on any of the recommendations that have been made, but to obfuscate and confuse and make the system as complex and complicated it possibly can.

Our reference point was to review by reference to standards of international law and international children’s rights. And in order to have, what we hoped would be the maximum impact we maintained as objective and independent a position and a delegation as possible so that the Israeli government could not immediately discount or discredit what we were finding and what we were trying to say and simply ignore us.

Unfortunately, that is eventually many years on what has happened, but at the time we took the approach that we would listen and review, and that we would take information and details from all sides. And at that stage, given that it was headed by Baroness Patricia Scotland and had enormous publicity and knowledge of this delegation within parliament, the initial Israeli state government response was to be relatively open in the sense of allowing us access to a variety of different departments, courts, court officials, legal officials, judges, and so on.

However, this didn’t produce what clearly the Israeli government hoped would be a report that exonerated them or didn’t criticise them. Notwithstanding that we again took the approach in writing the report that we would simply report on what we had found as opposed to taking a political stance on either the occupation, the history, the state of Israel itself and all the much wider political issues. Now that was a particular stance that was taken at that time and some people might or might not agree with it, but it was the way that the delegation thought was the best way to produce as detailed and as objective a report as possible. Having conducted this research, we concluded that on the basis solely of the legal differentials between the treatment of Palestinian children in the military system and children in the civil Israeli system, that there were a considerable number of breaches of the United Nation Convention on the rights of the child, which Israel of course had appeared to, or certainly did sign up to in 1991. However, all obligations and rights and anything that pertained to that act and convention were routinely not adhered to as I’m sure nobody will be surprised to hear and were ignored.

The core articles that we considered to Israel to be in breach of were article 2 – discrimination, 3 – the child’s best interests, 37 – premature resort to detention, C37 C – non-separation from adults, D – prompt access to lawyer, use of shackles. We found that the transportation of child prisoners into Israel was in breach article 76 of the 4th Geneva Convention and that failure to translate the various military orders into Hebrew was also a violation.

We ourselves also made a substantial number of recommendations, 40, and the core recommendations effectively mirror, although of course we could say that Save the Children mirrored us, but I’m not suggesting there’s any kind of competition. Sadly, any recommendations from Save the Children and a variety of other organisations who’ve reported on this since have all been the same and have all been about all the areas of the criminal justice system from pre-arrest, interrogation, bail, plea, bargaining, trial, sentencing, and detention, and the complaints and monitoring system.

Initially, there was some slight cause for optimism. The report was launched in 2012, there was a great deal of publicity and positive responses. Even the Israeli government didn’t say anything negative initially. Even the Jewish Chronicle. who reported on the launch and attended, couldn’t find anything in their reading of it to criticise it because we had been so careful as to how we’d written it and we’d reported on the facts and the law and nothing else. Initially, there was some, I will put it in quotes ‘interest’ from the Israeli government as to further discussion and debate and dialogue with lawyers here, including the attorney general, so at governmental level, about some of our key recommendations and the one they were the most interested in to begin with was in fact, the audio-visual recordings of interviews. That was something quite substantial initially, because my view was, and that of the delegates, that notwithstanding that there were 40 odd other recommendations, if that was implemented, that would have the impact of potentially blowing wide apart the whole system, because if interviews were so many threats and so much took place were recorded, then there could be no or very little space for the threats and intimidation and forcing of confessions from young people.

From the Israeli side, they claimed that it would assist them because they maintained of course, that many of the allegations being made by young people about what they did in the interrogation process were made up. So, there was some initial interest because of self-interest, in fact, because they felt that this would mean that their apparent, clear and proper means of interrogating the young people would be exposed as the great system that they claimed it was.

This eventually came to nothing and after that in 2014, and again, in 2016, strenuous efforts were made to arrange and organise, follow up delegations to the oPt again, and to Israel with a view to looking at whether any recommendations had been implemented, even though we’ve course knew the answer really, but to do it officially and to discuss why. On both occasions – occasion one, we had got as far as actually organising everything, including all the meetings. The Israelis at that point had said that they would meet with us and make the various officials and organisations available to us again. Then they canceled it at the last minute on the basis that they were “too busy” being involved in Gaza. So that was canceled.

2016, exactly the same thing happened. We had flights booked, everything was booked. We had all of the organisations we had at that stage. I had managed with other people to get a number of other new people involved with the delegation, including Charlie Falconer who’s in the house of Lords and who is the husband of one of the original members, and Keir Starmer. And in fact, there had been interest as well from some liberal Tory MPs who we were keen to perhaps have one, because of course, most of the time, the support in the House is not from that side of it.

Literally within probably four or five days before we were due to fly, the Israelis pulled it. They said that they should not and would not meet with us. That our report had been entirely and unjustifiably critical, that if they let us in, all we would do is write another report, criticising them. They were not going to facilitate any kinds of meetings. And they didn’t effectively say that they would ban us from entering the country. But we were left in a position where we had to make a decision as to whether, if we only went ahead and met Palestinian organisations and no other organisations, would we impact on the objectivity and independence of the first report by doing a follow up report that only met with “one side.”

I won’t go into the details, but there was a difference of opinion within the delegation and people involved in it adds to whether we should have gone or not and had a large publicity campaign about the refusal of the Israeli government to meet with us. That that was that. And it here is not the forum to talk about that, but the result was that the delegation did not go ahead.

Since then, I’ve been involved on and off. My involvement been maintained, but it’s on and off because of the lack of interest from the government. But Tareq and I have different occasions met again with whoever the latest person in the FCO is. They’ve continued to express their interest in the issue, continue to claim that this is still a priority issue. I should add, for those that don’t know that the FCO funded the delegation, but on the basis that we were entirely independent and that might seem like a slight contradiction in terms, but in fact, we were able to maintain our independence. They simply facilitated the reports. We didn’t have to run the contents of it by them beforehand or anything of that nature. They were very hands off. That’s why we continued to have these meetings but I’m afraid that events in England, change of government, Boris Johnson, et cetera, has just meant that there has been very little interest from the FCO. Tareq might have something more up to date that will be more reassuring. I can assure everybody that myself and some of the core members of the delegation still wish to go and still to report back and still wish to continue this work and that there will be many other people who want to do so.

Tareq Shrourou:

Thank you, Jude and thank you, Lana. I am to talk about recommendations, but before I do so, first of all, I’d like to send thank Jude and Lana for their work over the years. I’m deeply impressed by their resilience and commitment to this cause. It fills me with strong sense of despair, whenever I focus on it and part of that frustration is because the evidence is very clear of the harm that’s being caused to children through Israel’s military detention system. The international community’s fully aware, Israel, Israeli government, Israeli authority is fully aware and there is no change. It’s being left to civil society to keep the issue alive, to keep the issue in the spotlight. So, I would very much like to thank Balfour Project, Diana and Vincent, for organising this webinar and for helping sustain this issue, it needs it.

First thing I’d like to say very simply is that, from my perspective, this needs to be seen as both a major human rights problem and a significant child protection issue. It’s two sides of the same coin. The excellent approach taken by the UK lawyers and then by UNICEF, a year later, UNICEF produced a very similar report with essentially the same recommendations. Both very much took a legal and human rights perspective on the issue, and that’s very important. That’s our mandate and we support that approach.

I have been concerned that it’s not really being seen as a child protection issue, and I would like more visibility on the fact that it is a significant child protection issue. Hopefully that may mobilise or generate more momentum behind reform and change and Save the Children’ work on this and highlighting the child protection elements. This is extremely important.

So that being said, I’m going to very briefly take you through the UK government’s approach to this issue over the last 11 years then going on to recommendations. The positive as Jude said, is that UK government does treat this as a priority issue. So, that’s a good starting point. Another positive is that foreign officials in my interaction with them, I’m convinced that they share our concerns, that they genuinely have frustration that there’s no progress being made in this issue. But there’s one thing for officials being this way and the broader UK governments approach. My concern is that the UK government has now essentially settled on a quiet diplomacy approach which is fundamentally inappropriate when you’re dealing with a major child protection issue.

One thing I’m very much going stress and I might as well say now is that the UK government needs to fundamentally reassess its approach. It cannot take quiet diplomacy approach to a major child protection issue. I’ll elaborate on it further. It’s in a sense it’s reached this position because it’s been unsuccessful in its other approach. I’ll take you through that very briefly.

The first approach really was funding the senior UK lawyers, delegation that went out to Palestine to report on the issue. Jude was part of that delegation and they came back with a fantastic report with 40 recommendations. Those recommendations have been ignored. That was 2012. As Jude mentioned, a follow up report was planned with Foreign Office funding. Israeli authorities withdrew their support for follow up reports. The follow up was supposed to report on the implementation of those recommendations. It’s very clear that the report would’ve said that essentially there’s been no implementation. It’s very clear. It’s very apparent that Israel did not want that criticism to come their way. So, they essentially blocked off access. That was 2014 and 2016, the second rejection. In 2017, you may be aware or unaware that the UK government made an offer to the Israeli authorities for the metropolitan police to share expertise with Israeli counterparts on implementing regulations, designed to protect the rights of children interchange. The UK government continue to take a proactive approach reaching out to Israeli authorities, suggesting that there be exchange, there be a dialogue between experts in metropolitan police with the Israeli counterparts to put in place proper safeguards for children. Israel refused that offer.

Then in 2018, the UK government went before the UN Human Rights Council and made some recommendations to Israel as part of Israel’s universal periodic review. These include the specific child rights recommendations, namely that there should be mandatory use of audio-visual recording in all interrogations of children, that there be a reduction in the use of single hand ties, that there be alternative to night arrest and that the Israeli authorities inform child detainees of their legal rights. So, this was in a public forum of the UN Human Rights Council making these necessary suggestions, recommendations to the Israeli authorities. Israel has not implemented them.

We see that UK government in effect trying but not succeeding. Based on that public approach or failures, they’ve taken what can be called a private engagement or quiet diplomacy approach since then in the hope that if things don’t work publicly, maybe they can be more successful in private engagement. This approach is not working at all and in effect it’s actually worse than the previous approaches, because at least the previous approaches kept the issue in the spotlight. Whereas you take up this current approach essentially hides the issue, which is not good.

So that’s the last 10 years of UK governance approach. That can be extrapolated across the international community. There’s been no success from the international community engaging with Israeli authorities, that includes UNICEF who, as I mentioned, produced a wonderful report in 2013. They had dialogue for at least two years with Israeli authorities on trying to make some progress but essentially no progress was made, and UNICEF has largely gone quiet on the issue on 2015.

So, my suggestion, but not just mine, of course many people who work in this field and follow this issue is that 10 years on from the UK lawyers report, I think it’s time for the UK government to have a fundamental reassessment of its approach to this issue. They should not settle on the quiet diplomacy/private engagement approach. That absolutely is not working. It’s also clear that the incremental specific recommendations approach that was tried previously was not persuasive. It was not working as well in terms of persuading its Israeli authorities to change the system.

So, I think it’s time that UK governments, not just UK government, parliamentarians as well, this should be a cross party approach. They should be clear and unequivocal about the reality of the situation. My suggestion is that they adopt as their own position, the conclusion made by UNICEF in its March 2013 report, I’ll quote it for you if you’re unaware of this. UNICEF in its landmark 2013 report on the issue of children in military detention said, the ill treatment of Palestinian children who come in contact with the ministry’s detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction sentencing.

The language of ill treatments appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised throughout the process should be adopted by the UK governments as it’s starting position of this issue. They should be expressed, they should be clear and be unequivocal that that is their position that they’ve adopted the UNICEF position. because the evidence is clear and overwhelming, Israel has not changed. They have not fundamentally reformed its military detention system.

With that being the starting position, I’ve then made reference to international principles to form the next position. The UN Convention on The Rights of the Child make clear that the best interest of the child should be the primary consideration in all matters engaging with children. Israel’s military detention system does not comply with that fundamental principle which contains on . The UN Convention on The Rights of the Child.

Secondly, the UN working group on arbitrary detention has stated that, and Save the Children, this is their position as well, that military courts should not be used to try civilians, including children. It’s a fundamental principle of international law. UK government should adopt this as it’s starting position too, military courts should not be used to try children.

So, based on the overwhelming evidence that Israel has not fundamentally reformed its system as recommended by the UK lawyers and UNICEF and Save the Children and many other leading human rights organization,. I would suggest that the UK government considers calling for an immediate moratorium on the Israeli military authorities arresting, detaining and prosecuting Palestine children until at least all the 40 recommendations made by the UK lawyers and UNICEF are accepted in full by the government of Israel.

In essence, the system should be abolished because the system is harming children, and no one should be calling for propping up that system. The call should be very clear and unequivocal that the system needs to be fundamentally reformed and until then Israeli authorities should not be arresting, detaining and trying children, pressing children in its military custodial system.

That’s a big ask of course. So, we also support Save the Children’s more specific recommendations in respect of ending night arrest raids on family homes to arrest children. We agree with Save the Children that instead they should be an arrest summons procedure. This was piloted by Israeli authorities in 2013 after the UNICEF reports was published. As part of Israel’s PR response to that report they stated that we will issue a summons process or summons procedure.  In practice, it lasted only I think just over a year and in practice summons were submitted to family homes at night. So, family homes were still being targeted by Israeli authorities at night but instead of arresting the child, they would just see the summons. But the traumatic effects of Israeli authorities making nighttime raids on a home still continues.

Of course, we agree with Save the Children that in all interrogations, there should be audio-visual recording and the parents, and the lawyers should be present. I think truth will confirm that that’s the case in the UK. It’s quite standard. It defies belief why these Israeli authorities would not implement the same capacity in children.

Finally, I think we need to be aware so that the ICC is now in play in respect of the opening of this investigation to the situation of Palestine. I would recall the words of the UNICEF conclusion when they say that the military detention system provides for ill treatment, which appears widespread, systematic and institutionalised throughout the process. The language of widespread and systematic takes you from an international criminal perspective into the realm of possible crimes against humanity and the new ICC prosecutor Karim Khan, he elaborated his own policy approach to certain issues and one of them is that he’s prioritising or appears to want to prioritise apparent crimes against children. His basis as much in relation to the Ukraine situation and in an interview last year that was published online. He said that essentially where crimes are affecting children, that’s where he wants to go. I think when it comes to Palestine and it comes to the West Bank and when it comes to the widespread systematic ill treatment being suffered by Palestinian children, I think that’s where the investigators should focus their attention.

Diana Safieh:
Thank you so much Tareq. We’ve got from Magan Singodia, who’s one of our trustees. Why are the children throwing rocks? For example, is it’s related to the checkpoints and their treatment there. He says, I’m not justifying throwing of rocks, but it would be interesting to know the specific actions that are leading to these situations. And then we’ve got, for example, from Rodney Nicholson, what are the alleged charges made against these children and their families?

The most common charges include throwing stones, on why our study didn’t go on reasons because, guilty or innocent, it really is irrelevant to the treatment that children go through and are forced to experience. Children should be treated as children, which would include all the safeguards that entails as well. Whether guilty or innocent it does mean as well that they are protected from ill treatment. Many research done as well by others showed that throwing stones usually doesn’t cause harm by children. I remember one research said they’ve studied more than 80 cases with three causing harms, one to an individual and two to cars. Like the disproportionality as well, maybe should be taken into account here. Considering that the maximum penalty for throwing stones is 20 years as well. But again, at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what they’ve done, whether they’re innocent or guilty or whether it’s alleged or not, or what the causes are because they are ill-treated no matter what, and they shouldn’t be.

Thanks for that. We’ve got another question from Judy Cunnith. I would expect these experiences to often result in a diagnosis of PTSD. Is that the case? You talked about some of the repercussions on the children post release. Is there any study into whether they are sort of officially diagnosed with PTSD?

There are other studies that said that. Ours didn’t make the diagnosis. We spoke about the traumatic experiences they’ve had and suffered, but we didn’t reach to make the actual diagnosis, but others did actually have studies and included that. Whether it’s a specific study or articles done by specific specialists, there is a specific MHPSS person in the West Bank and in Jerusalem who works specifically with the children and writes a lot about the cases and the diagnosis she goes through.

Could I just add in terms of the PTSD issue and obviously I don’t know what the exact position is currently, but there certainly were various organisations working in the West Bank, limited because of funding, particularly with young men who had been in prison and been arrested specifically around trauma and the issues. I think YMCA in fact weirdly was one of them. But again, that’s through funding.

So, there is stuff out there and certainly one of the things that we had wanted to do, but of course we didn’t even get to do our follow up was that we had thought about doing another delegation post, the legal follow up of social workers and child psychologists, and various other people to then widen out what we were doing into the impact as well. Because of course, that’s part of what happens with children within the youth justice system here. But given that we were blocked and going any further, that didn’t go any further, but there have been different delegations of probation officers and social workers who have gone out at different points from the UK, but that’s obviously not quite what we’re talking about here.

Yes. YMCA are still providing services. They’re one of our partners and they provide psychosocial counseling to children and families and they offer as well vocational trainings for them as an attempt to reintegrate them.

Another excellent organisation there. We’ve got a comment from Wayne David MP. We actually, in the run up to this event, shared his article on this subject that he had written last year, which is unfortunately still very relevant. He said the excellent presentations, everyone. Soon after this, new government in Israel was formed last year, that IDF announced that night raids and arrests of children doing those raids would stop. I take it that this never happened.

Well, Tareq and Lana might know more than me. I certainly wasn’t even aware that that had been made as an announcement. I read the latest report from Military Court Watch, who are on the ground, and I’ve read all of them from this year, from January up to now and there is no change in anything. That has not have changed nor, I think it was Tareq or Lana said the directive all the way back in 2010, about hand ties is ignored. And again, yes, I would agree that with Tareq that the paltry attempt by the Israeli government to use summonses as an alternative to nighttime arrests, which is one of our key recommendations, I don’t know how long it lasted, but not very long. It wasn’t dealt with properly and they came up with some excuse about why it didn’t work. It was just pointless really. So, I don’t know. I don’t know anything about this announcement, perhaps Lana being there, more, but certainly not being abided by as far as I’m aware.

Can one of you enlighten us with what the rationale is behind these nighttime arrests? Why is that even done?

Well, we were told when we challenged it, that stripping everything away, that effectively the Palestinians couldn’t be trusted to turn up.

When they’re summonsed.

Yes. If they were summonsed, if they were notified of a police interview or of anything of that nature, the parents couldn’t be trusted to bring their child. Stripping everything away, that is what they were saying. And then in fact, I seem to remember, and Tareq might remember more, that from the limited research that was done by Military Court Watch and anyone else on the ground when they did do the summonses pilot, that of course, people did turn up. Even in their own terms, the Israelis couldn’t say, oh, look, here is the evidence that we were claiming that nobody can be trusted. In fact, it was the opposite because of course people would prefer to do that.

Also, it’s not just about the nighttime raids and all the fear and intimidation and terror and everything that goes with that, but it’s about giving the family more control over the actual so-called judicial process. It means that there’s more scope to involve a lawyer. Again, that would’ve been another area that could have blown open, quite a lot of all of the things that we were making recommendations about, because if the family came with a lawyer and a family member at an appointed time, there’s your evidence that summonses would work and also, it gives a lot more control over what happens at the police station.

Could I just make clear to the audience who I’m sure know, but what I didn’t say, because I presume, I think I assume people knew is that, we weren’t just looking at what was happening at the Palestinian children in the military court system. We were comparing it to the Israeli civil system and the Israeli civil system under which Israeli children and supposedly, but again, this actually doesn’t happen, children in East Jerusalem are supposed to be treated under, is fairly much in line with the system here. It has the safeguards, et cetera, that exist for juvenile justice, but that is just for Israeli children. And that’s the point that not only everything that we say about what this military so-called justice system is, that there is a massive differential. And that in and of itself is illegal because an occupying power cannot provide differential legal systems for a population that they are an occupier of. So, that is an overarching breach, let alone all the smaller, systemic breaches.

Thank you for that. That really helped clarify that these child detainees are under the military courts which are in charge of the West Bank and that these Palestinian citizens of Israel in theory, and the Israeli children themselves are subject to a completely different system. We are coming to the end of time and we’ve had a bunch of questions, but I’m going to finish on comments and a question from Jenny Tonge. She says, Tareq this is in response to you, quiet diplomacy is government speak for doing nothing, which sadly the case. She says, I tried and tried during my time in both houses (and we saw her try very hard) and was just dismissed as a troublemaker even by my own party, which is sad, but true. And then she says, why do the UK government take no action even though they accept that there are these abuses happening? Why has the Israeli government got such power over our government? Why do we never impose sanctions?

I completely agree with Jenny. What I would say going forward is that literally almost to the day. it is 10 years, it was June 2012, and I certainly will be talking to Tareq, and with you as well, and any other partners about how we could use, you know, there always has to be a tagline. So, let’s use this as a tag. I’m I could speak to Baroness Scotland and various other people and see whether there are any people within liberals within the current government. Obviously, there are other people within other parties that could get this re raised as a parliamentary question, because in fact, it did used to be a lot of parliamentary questions about this. I know it’s a pathetic little attempt. I’m of the same view, but we have to get it into where the power is, and if we can get this re-raised in parliament as to getting a parliamentary question that puts it right straight at the government to say what is it that you are doing? All of this description by Jenny and Tareq, we know this quiet diplomacy is effectively meaningless, and they need to be put on the spot to find out what they’re doing, and we need to re-look at the FCO and any other possibilities.

If the IDF really have made that announcement, then let’s take them at face value that this apparently means that they are considering issues around child treatment and look at whether there’s some sort of opening there and something that we can do.

But I also agree with Tareq that this has to be looked as a child protection issue and I think the ICC is a real area as well. I’ll certainly be talking to Tareq about that and with colleagues at Bindmanns because we’re already involved in some other legal stuff around, the targeting of journalists and all the stuff that’s been happening in the West Bank. So, I’ll certainly look at whether there’s stuff there as well.

Thank you so much. That is fascinating and depressing. It’s the theme of all of our webinars, unfortunately. I am going to ask one more question because it focuses on the future a bit. So, before I do, I just want to say thank you, to you again for speaking and to all the attendees we’ve had, about 150 people watch us live and we will have many more people watch the recording. Can I ask everyone that is watching, share this recording with people, share the reports, let’s make some noise about this because it’s a very clear-cut issue. I think where some of them might be a bit harder to pull apart. This is quite clearly injustice towardschildren, which is black and white, when you think about it.

So, if this is the one issue, then please pick it up and share it as much as you can. This question is from Ronald Mendel comes along to our webinars and he basically asks how do these child detainee prisoners feel when they come out with regards to the Israeli officials and authority and how does that affect their future relations really?

I know you said hopeful ending, so I’ll try to end in a hopeful note. Generally speaking, children do struggle to reintegrate into society. It’s just a complex social situation they’re in, because first the whole practice is normalised. Many children reported that they perceive themselves as heroes because of all the celebrations that happen, but then the celebration ends and most importantly there is this sense of isolation. So, it is difficult, but of course with the support, which is always needed, even though difficult to receive, and sometimes they don’t know about it, not all children hear about it, not all parents know about it, but it’s important to have the support such as Jude spoke about, the YMCA and the so many other organisations that provide. Children do get rehabilitation and reintegration eventually through those services. As I’ve said before, to end on a more hopeful note, they will think of their future, and they’re determined to have better future. They don’t want to go work in construction sites, they want to study, they want to go back to their schools, they want to do different things. They want to do vocational trainings, they dream about having their own businesses, they dream about having big roles in their societies. So even with this really harsh experience that no child should be going through, they still have a really strong ambition and dreams for the future. Try to end on a hopeful note. Hopefully this would push everyone to work on pressuring Israel to end military detention. Thank you everyone.

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