Torturing Children: Official Israeli Policy
Israel treats children like adults. Only two countries impose life without parole (LWOP) sentences on minors – America and Israel.
Israel is a signatory to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). It’s explicit and binding provisions state:
- “every human being” below 18 is a child;
- their economic, social and cultural rights, safety and welfare must be protected “without discrimination of any kind” with regard to “race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status,” including their “right to life….survival (and) development;”
- all measures shall be taken to protect children from physical and mental violence, exploitation or ill treatment; and
- children deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and not subjected to torture or other abusive or degrading treatment.
International human rights and humanitarian law demand it.
Israel spurns CRC and other international law with impunity. Studies document it. A new one conducted by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) titled “Children in Military Custody” discussed horrendous abuses.
From September 10 – 17, a delegation comprised of nine lawyers visited Israel and the West Bank. They included a former attorney general, a former appeals court judge, and several lawyers known as QCs. They evaluated how Palestinian children are treated under Israeli military law.
On July 29, 2009, Israeli General Gadi Shamni signed Military Order No. 1644. It established the “first-instance military court for youth, presided over by a single juvenile-court judge or by a panel led by a juvenile-court judge.”
“The head of the military Court of Appeal must appoint judges from the first instance court in the military court.”
“The judges must be prepared to be competent for the post of juvenile judges after the approval of the head of the Court of Appeal to be appointed as juvenile judges for a certain period, which has been identified.”
It also requested court sessions be “as separate as possible” from regular ones for adults. In addition, a Civil Administration welfare report on the defendant’s family should be issued “if the court believes this necessary to determine the minor’s verdict.”
Under Military Order No. 132, minors are categorized as follows:
- children are under age 12;
- youths are from 12 – 14;
- young adults are between 14 and 16; and
- at age 16, minors become adults.
According to CRC, adulthood begins at age 18.
In practice, children are treated like adults. According to Defence for Children International (DCI) representative Khaled Quzmar:
“After reading the order I can say that there is nothing new.”
“They are just playing with words and trying to make useless cosmetic changes to hide the realities of the military system itself.”
“This military order also gives incredible authority to the military prosecutor who can give permission to override a series of clauses in the order itself.”
“Military Order 1644 exempts all hearings to determine whether a child should be kept in pre-trial detention until the end of the legal proceedings from the requirement of having to be heard before a ‘juvenile judge.”
In September 2011, Israel issued Military Order 1676. It raised the age for children to 18. It states parents should be told and legal counsel provided.
Language lacked specifics. The order circulated only in Hebrew. Doing so violates international law. Moreover, youths of any age are denied basic rights.
They’re abusively treated. They’re prosecuted in military courts. In practice, they don’t differentiate defendants by age.
Children 12 and under may be imprisoned. Parents and legal counsel aren’t permitted with them during interrogations. Offenses most often allege stone throwing. Many youths are falsely charged.
They can be held for weeks without access to lawyers. They can be imprisoned up to two years. Complaints filed are ignored. FCO said:
“a significant number of allegations of physical and emotional abuse of child detainees by the military which neither the complaints system nor the justice system is addressing satisfactorily.”
Prosecuted Israeli and Palestinian children for similar alleged offenses face vastly different treatment.
Israel doesn’t dispute that “major differentials (exist) between the (military) law governing the treatment of Palestinian children and” how civil law treats Israeli youths.
Separate and unequal defines Israeli policy. It stems from the belief that “every Palestinian child is a potential terrorist.”
FCO determined “undisputed facts.” At least six CRC provisions were violated.
Most Palestinian minors are arrested pre-dawn at home. Heavily armed soldiers accost them. They’re painfully tied or shackled. They’re brutalized and intimidated during arrest, transfer and interrogation procedures.
Offenses amount to torture. Legal rights are entirely denied. So is bail most often. Nearly all charged receive custodial sentences inside Israel. From arrest until release, treatment is brutal.
FCO’s report documents grievous international law breaches. Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is policy. So is institutionalized racism.
Council for Arab-British Understanding Director Chris Doyle called Palestinian youth and adult prosecutions “nothing less than a kangaroo court that does nothing to improve Israel’s security while criminalizing an entire generation of Palestinian children.”
Occupation harshness continues. Rogue state oppression inflicts enormous harm. Palestinians suffer grievously. Children feel it most. Many are severely traumatized.
Israel gets away with appalling crimes because world leaders don’t intervene. Public outrage has the best chance of pressuring them. Studies alone change nothing.