Palestinian Children Feel Security Lash

Palestinian Children Feel Security LashPalestinian Children Feel Security Lash

More than 150 Palestinian children are being held in Israeli detention for “security offenses” in the occupied territories, and almost half of them in conditions that are in contravention of the Geneva Convention. In some cases, the criminal law applying to Palestinian minors is stricter and even more severe than the one applied to Israeli adults, Asia Times said in a report.

Fourteen-year-old Malak al Khatib, one of the youngest Palestinian detainees and one of only a handful of girls, was released from an Israeli prison on February 13 into the arms of emotional family members and supporters after being incarcerated in an Israeli prison for two months on “security offenses.”

Details of what happened to the Palestinian minor were made public only after an Israeli gag order on the case was lifted on appeal after a global campaign for her release.

The slightly built, dark-haired girl, from the town of Beitin near Ramallah, was arrested in December last year and later charged with stone-throwing and possession of a knife. However, al Khatib says the confessions were coerced under duress during interrogation. Al Khatib was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment, a suspended sentence of three months and fined 6,000 shekels ($ 1,500).

  Alarming Figure

According to volunteer organization Military Court Watch, 151 Palestinian children are currently being held in Israeli detention for “security offences” in the occupied territories. The group added that 47 percent of these children were being held in jails in contravention of the Geneva Convention because this limits the ability of family and legal representatives from the West Bank and Gaza to visit them.

Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP) says that in December last year 10 Palestinian children aged between 10 and 15 were incarcerated. However, children as young as eight have also been arrested by Israeli soldiers or police. According to DCIP, Israeli forces arrest about 1,000 children every year in the occupied West Bank.

However, it is not only the large numbers of Palestinian children arrested which is of concern to human rights organizations but also their treatment during incarceration.

In 2013, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was attacked by Israeli critics after releasing a report title “Children in Israeli Military Detention”, which slammed the Israeli authorities for using “intimidation, threats and physical violence to coerce confessions out of Palestinian children.”

“Children have been threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault, against themselves or a family member,” the report said.

IPS spoke to two Palestinian boys from the Jelazon refugee camp, near Ramallah, who were beaten, abused during interrogation and jailed on allegations of throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces and settlers. One hundred heavily armed Israeli soldiers, their faces masked, broke down the door and stormed the home of Khalil Khaled Nakhli, 17, in the early hours of August 11 last year, terrifying his six younger brothers and sisters.

“My arm was broken after the soldiers beat me as they arrested me. They accused me of throwing stones at Israeli settlers from the Beit El settlement near Jelazon camp,” Nakhli said. He was taken to an Israeli prison where he was roughed up during interrogation and eventually sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.

The home of Nakhli’s friend Ahmed Othman Safi, 17, was similarly stormed in the early hours of September 7 last year. This time the soldiers used explosives to blow the door open. Safi was left bloody and his skull fractured when the arresting soldiers used the back of their guns to club him on the head.

  Double Standards

Palestinian minors are treated harshly in comparison with how Israeli minors are treated following arrest. “Two children, one Jewish and one Palestinian, who are accused of committing the same act, such as stone throwing, will receive substantially different treatment from two separate legal systems,” the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said in a recently released report titled “One Rule, Two Legal Systems: Israel’s Regime of Laws in the West Bank.”

“The Israeli child will be afforded the extensive rights and protections granted to minors under Israeli law. His Palestinian counterpart will be entitled to limited rights and protections, which are not sufficient to ensure his physical and mental wellbeing and which do not sufficiently meet his unique needs as a minor,” said the report.

Moreover, in many cases, the criminal law applying to Palestinian minors is stricter and even more severe than the one applied to Israeli adults. “If Malak al Khatib had been arrested for violent activity as an Israeli child she would have received certain rights. These were denied to her for being Palestinian,” ACRI spokesperson Nuri Moskovich told IPS.

Decades of “temporary” Israeli military rule in the occupied territories have given rise to two separate and unequal systems of law that discriminate between Israelis and Palestinians. The legal differentiation is not restricted to security or criminal matters, but touches upon almost every aspect of daily life.