Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Palestinian Child Prisoners

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Palestinian Child Prisoners

Article excerpt

Brad Parker and Ivan Karakashian discussed the systematic ill-treatment that Palestinian children endure within the Israeli military detention system, during a Sept. 30 presentation at the Palestine Center in Washington, DC. The speakers work in the advocacy unit of Defense for Children International (DCI)-Palestine, a Palestinian local human rights organization that provides legal aid to kids charged in both Israeli military and Palestinian Authority courts. DCI-Palestine also monitors and documents human rights abuses and violence against children throughout East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, and tries to use a variety of U.N. mechanisms to put pressure on Israel to change its policies that affect children.

The Israeli military court system was established in 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, and instituted military law. Palestinian men, women and children are prosecuted for violations of military law which applies only to them. Israeli citizens and even settlers living illegally in the West Bank are subject to dramatically different Israeli civilian laws.

Parker described the process of arrest, transfer and interrogation of Palestinian children, which DCI-Palestine has documented for the past decade or more. Under Israeli military law, kids can be arrested without warrants and soldiers have the authority to arrest anyone they suspect of violating the security provisions. "There is no judicial oversight over arrests," Parker emphasized. "There is no real investigation process prior to an arrest. Most of the evidence gathered for an arrest comes after the arrests," as a result of "coercive interrogations where kids don't have access to counsel and they are denied really basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees and protections," Parker said.

A child who throws a stone at a building or the separation wall faces a potential 10-year maximum sentence under military law. If the child throws a stone at a moving object or into traffic, the potential maximum sentence is 20 years. Threatening a soldier can result in a 7- to 10-year sentence. Insulting a soldier can draw a 3-year sentence. About 60 percent of Palestinian children arrested are charged with throwing stones. Most of the others are charged with being a member of a banned organization or being part of a protest. …

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