Foreign Office must maintain serious pressure on Israel over Palestinian child detainees

Foreign Office must maintain serious pressure on Israel over Palestinian child detainees

Caabu is dismayed at the refusal of the Israeli authorities to cooperate with a UK Foreign Office report into the issue of Palestinian children in Israeli military custody. This led to the cancellation of a UK funded delegation of  lawyers at the last minute.

It is vital that the British Government does not drop this issue in the face of Israeli obstruction and serious long-term violations of international law. Israel’s failure to comply should have serious consequences.

As of 31 December 2015, 422 Palestinian children are in Israeli detention. There has been an annual increase of 15%, according to statistics from Military Court Watch. Children are most commonly prosecuted for stone throwing. The majority of children are detained at night and report physical and psychological abuse during arrest, transfer and interrogation. Over 99% of cases in the military courts end in conviction, according to official Israeli figures. Around 50% of Palestinian child detainees are held in prisons in Israel in breach of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

According to testimonies collected by Military Court Watch, children reported multiple violations during the arrest, transfer, and interrogation phases:

  • Night arrests- 65 per cent of children continue to report being arrested at night in what are frequently described as terrifying raids by the military.
  • Physical abuse- 62 per cent of children continue to report being subjected to various forms of physical abuse during arrest, transfer and/or interrogation. The types of reported abuse includes: punching, slapping, kicking, beating with, or pushing into objects, prolonged exposure to the elements, spat on, position abuse and electric shocks.
  • Access to lawyers- 97 per cent of children continue to report being denied access to a lawyer prior to questioning. Under Israeli military law a detainee must be informed of his/her right to consult with a lawyer on arrival at a police station. Most children continue to see their lawyer for the first time in a military court after the interrogation phase has been completed.

More information can be found in UNICEF’s report from March 2013 which found that: “The ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the [Israeli] military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing”.

A recent Caabu delegation visited the military court at Ofer, and witnessed several trials of children, all of which were prosecuted for stone throwing.

The Chair of the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group, Richard Burden had a written Question on the cancellation of the UK delegation. It was answered by Middle East Minister, Tobias Ellwood.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what representations he has (a) received and (b) made on the cancellation of the UK delegation to Israel and the Occupied Territories to follow up the report published by a delegation of British lawyers, entitled Children in Military Custody, in June 2012; and if he will make a statement. (27341)

Tabled on: 19 February 2016

Mr Tobias Ellwood:

We have not received representations on this issue. I expressed my strong disappointment at Israel's unwillingness to host this follow-up visit with Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely during my visit to Israel on 18 February. Officials from the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, including the Ambassador, also lobbied the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs to cooperate with the visit, and will continue to follow up. We remain committed to working with Israel to secure improvements to the practices surrounding children in detention in Israel.

The answer was submitted on 24 Feb 2016 at 16:00.

In other correspondence with Caabu, the Foreign Office said it was “very disappointed” about Israel’s failure to engage with a follow-up report into Palestinian child detainees which led to the cancellation of the visit. A Foreign Office official said:

“The UK takes the issue of Palestinian child detainees very seriously and you will be aware of the recent attention that this has received in Parliament. As Mr Ellwood set out in the debate on 6 January, we welcome the positive steps Israel has made in implementing some of the recommendations of the “Children in Military Custody” report but HMG remains concerned about the treatment of Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons. However, we are very disappointed that the Israeli authorities have chosen not to engage with a follow-up report which has led to the lawyers cancelling their visit to the region. The UK will continue to make representations to the Israelis on children in detention.”


Notes to editors:

1) For more information or interviews contact Chris Doyle, on + 44207 832 1321 or +447968 040281.

2) Information about Foreign Office report into Palestinian child detainees in Israel

3) Caabu’s work on Palestinian detainees