The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed in its report Thursday its "deepest concern about the reported practice of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian children arrested, prosecuted and detained by the military and the police."
Palestinian children are routinely arrested, hands tied painfully and blindfolded during nighttime sweeps by Israeli soldiers, the report said. Authorities also often transfer the youngsters to detention centers without informing their parents.
The detained children regularly faced "physical and verbal violence, humiliation, painful restraints … [were] threatened with death, physical violence, and sexual assault against themselves or members of their family," according to the report.
"These crimes are perpetrated from the time of arrest, during transfer and interrogation, to obtain a confession but also on an arbitrary basis as testified by several Israeli soldiers as well as during pre-trial detention," the report said.
The report also documented 14 cases where Palestinian children were used as human shields between January 2010 and March 2013.
"[Israeli] soldiers have used Palestinian children to enter potentially dangerous buildings ahead of them and to stand in front of military vehicles in order to stop the throwing of stones against those vehicles," the report said.
Growing number of children held
Also addressed in the report was concern over the number of Palestinian children held in Israeli jails – an estimated 7,000 kids aged 12 to 17 years, but sometime as young as nine. An average of two children per day have been detained and arrested since 2002.
Most of the children arrested were accused of throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and settlers, an offense which can carry a 20-year sentence.
Access to health care, good schools and clean water, as well as routinely being denied birth registration, are also issues faced by Palestinian children.
The report was compiled using information from other UN rights bodies, military sources and Israeli and Palestinian rights groups. Israel did not cooperate with information requests on the issue, the committee said.
The committee expressed its "deepest concern that children on both sides of the conflict continue to be killed and injured," but stressed that Palestinian children were "disproportionately represented among the victims."
Israel refutes report
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor slammed the UN's report, saying Israel already responded to findings released last March by UN agency UNICEF on the mistreatment of Palestinian children.
"If someone simply wants to magnify their political bias and political bashing of Israel not based on a new report, on work on the ground, but simply recycling old stuff, there is no importance in that," said Palmor.
"This is clearly not a bona fide action, and the resulting report obviously does not aim to promote any real improvement as the UNICEF report did, but only to grab headlines."
dr/slk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)