Over the past several weeks, the high-profile detention of Ahed Tamimi has provided a glimpse into what it means to be a child held in the Israeli military detention system facing prosecution in military courts that lack basic due process protections.
This week, Canadian MP Hélène Laverdière sent a letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland highlighting Ahed was just “one of many troubling cases of military detention of children under the Israeli occupation.” She urged the Canadian government to press Israel to comply with international law around its treatment of Palestinian child detainees.
In the letter, Laverdière noted the widespread and systematic ill-treatment Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces encounter in the Israeli military detention system. The letter demands that the Israeli government “uphold its obligations under the [United Nations] Convention on the Rights of the Child,” and urged Minister Freeland to press the Israeli government to “fully comply” with international law.
Disturbingly, Ahed’s detention and prosecution in Israel’s military court system is not exceptional, but provides a clear example of how Israeli military law and military courts are used to control an occupied Palestinian population. Between February and November 2017, an average of 310 Palestinian children were in the Israeli prison system each month for “security offenses,” according to Israel Prison Service (IPS) data. Among them were an average of 60 children between the ages of 12 and 15.
Ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees by Israeli forces is widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the Israeli military detention system. Three out of four Palestinian children experience some form of physical violence following arrest.
Israeli military law provides no right to an attorney during interrogation, so Palestinian children like Ahed often typically arrive to interrogation rooms bound, blindfolded, frightened, and sleep deprived. Children often give confessions after verbal abuse, threats, physical and psychological violence that in some cases amounts to torture.
In a military detention system where fair trial guarantees are denied and Palestinian children overwhelmingly experience some form of physical violence at the hands of Israeli forces, it is clear that detaining and prosecuting Palestinian children in Israeli military courts has little to do with justice.
As the situation appears to be deteriorating for children living under Israeli military occupation, we must remember an increasing number of lawmakers across the globe now recognize that failing to demand human rights, justice and equality for Palestinian children perpetuates injustice and a military occupation with no end in sight.
As we move forward in 2018, I know we will continue to strengthen our movement and efforts to expose widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system. We’ll be sharing new actions for Canada and the United States soon, so stay tuned.
Attorney & International Advocacy Officer
Defense for Children International – Palestine
Co-leader of the No Way to Treat a Child campaign