The Israeli military allegedly mistreats Palestinian children in custody, according to a UNICEF report. It says that violations of international norms typically begin on arrest and continue through sentencing.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in a report released Wednesday estimated that 700 Palestinian youth aged 12-17, most of them boys, are arrested, interrogated and detained by Israeli military, police and security agents every year in the occupied West Bank.
UNICEF said it had identified 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."
Mistreatment, it said, included "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."
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the ministry and Israel's military had cooperated with UNICEF while it compiled the report with the goal of improving the treatment of Palestinian minors in custody.
"Israel will study the conclusions and will work to implement them through ongoing cooperation with UNICEF, whose work we value and respect," Palmor said.
UNICEF also claimed that "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."
UNICEF examined more than 400 cases since 2009, legal papers, reports by governmental and nongovernmental groups, and interviews with imprisoned youth and Israeli and Palestinian officials and lawyers. The report found that minors, most of whom are arrested for throwing stones, suffer physical violence and threats during interrogation, are coerced into confessions, and do not have immediate access to lawyers or family during questioning.
According to the report, most children confess at the end of interrogation, signing forms in Hebrew, a language they hardly understand.
It also found that some children might be held in solitary confinement for up to a month before their trials began, or even after they were sentenced.
The report did conclude that Israel had made some "positive changes" such as new hand-tying procedures to prevent pain and injury.
And, it noted improvements after a military order was given in 2010 that requires Israeli police to notify parents about the arrest of their children and to inform children that they have the right to consult a lawyer.
mkg/ipj (Reuters, AFP)