UN raps Israeli abuse of minor prisoners

Israeli soldiers stand near Palestinian children arrested in the West Bank. (File photo)

The United Nations says the ill treatment of Palestinian minor inmates within the Israeli military detention system is “widespread, systematic and institutionalized.”

The UN children’s fund, UNICEF, said in a 22-page report on Wednesday that it has examined the Tel Aviv regime’s military court system for holding Palestinian children and found evidence of “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.”

Some 7,000 Palestinian children, aged between 12 and 17, have been arrested, interrogated and prosecuted by Israeli forces, the report said, adding that the majority of them were boys.

“In no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights,” the report stated.

UNICEF analyzed the procedure employed by Israeli forces from arrest to trial of the children. It said many children were “aggressively awakened in the middle of the night by many armed soldiers and being forcibly brought to an interrogation centre tied and blindfolded, sleep deprived and in a state of extreme fear.”

Many of them faced mistreatment during the transfer process and forced to lie down on the floor of a vehicle for one day in some cases. They were also subjected to verbal or physical abuse, the report also noted.

“The interrogation mixes intimidation, threats and physical violence, with the clear purpose of forcing the child to confess,” the international body said, adding they were not accompanied by a lawyer or a family member during the interrogation.

“Children have been threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault, against themselves or a family member,” it said, adding that they were restrained during the questioning even for extended periods of time.

The maximum penalty for minor inmates, aged 12 to 13, is six months. However, it could be extended to 20 years for those who are over 14. The vast majority of Palestinian children have been arrested for throwing stones.

“The principal evidence against the child is the child’s own confession, in most cases extracted under duress during the interrogation,” the UNICEF report further said, saying they have to sign confession forms in Hebrew which they barely understand.

“Ultimately, almost all children plead guilty in order to reduce the length of their pretrial detention. Pleading guilty is the quickest way to be released. In short, the system does not allow children to defend themselves,” the report concluded.

SAB/PKH/HJL