At the end of February 2010 there were 41 Palestinian children under the age of 16 detained in Israel. It was stated in a recent debate in the UK Parliament that the total was now 150. In the prisoner exchange in which Gilad Shalit and more than 1 000 Palestinians were released, it is reported that none of the Palestinian prisoners were children.
The Britain-Palestine All-Party Parliamentary Group, on a recent visit, witnessed teenagers attending court hearings in handcuffs and leg irons and often without the presence of a responsible adult or legal representation. Children accused of throwing stones are frequently arrested and interrogated in harrowing circumstances and denied parental visits. Numerous disturbing accounts have been collected by, among others, Physicians for Human Rights Israel and Defence for Children International.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child states that the arrest and detention of children must be used only as a measure of last resort, and for the appropriate period of time, and that the juvenile detainees must be separated from adults, allowed contact with their families, and receive appropriate assistance, including access to education, recreation and rehabilitation. None of these conditions are complied with in the Palestinian case. This heavy-handed treatment of Palestinian minors at the hands of the Israeli authorities can only have a detrimental effect on the peace process when these children become adults.
What is the European Union doing to ensure that these Palestinian children’s rights are respected?
What progress has the Military Court for Juveniles made in improving the treatment of minors?