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Israel has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol on children and armed conflict, but has been slow to incorporate the principles and provisions of the Convention into its domestic legal system.

In June 2012 a delegation of nine UK lawyers published an FCO-funded, independent report, Children in Military Custody, on the plight of Palestinian children arrested and detained by Israel. It found that Israel’s treatment of Palestinian child prisoners was in breach of:

Article 76 of the 4th Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (concerning occupied territories), and

Several Articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

The report made 43 core and specific recommendations and the UK Government promised to take up the issues with the Israeli Government.

A planned follow-up visit in 2016 by the lawyers who authored the report was cancelled after the Israeli authorities decided not to facilitate contact between Israeli experts and the lawyers. According to the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel have only substantially implemented one recommendation from the report: the separation of children from adults in custody.[1]

In 2013 Israel submitted a periodic report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors implementation of the Convention, to which the Committee responded in June 2013. It regretted Israel’s “persistent refusal to provide information and data and to respond to the Committee’s written questions on children living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory …, including East Jerusalem and the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights”. The Committee noted Israel’s follow-up measures and some progress, and took into account its national security concerns, but emphasised:

…that the illegal long-lasting occupation of Palestinian territory and the Syrian Golan Heights, the continued expansion of unlawful settlements and construction of the Wall into the West Bank as well as land confiscation, destruction of houses and livelihood of Palestinians constitute severe and continuous violations of the rights of Palestinian children and their families, feed the cycle of humiliation and violence and jeopardize a peaceful and stable future for all children of the region.

Israel’s next periodic report to the UN Committee is due by 2 November 2018.

The Israeli government doesn’t routinely comment on news stories and reports on this issue. However, the Jerusalem Post in an April 2017 article explains that “the country’s arguments are generally that these efforts on behalf of the minors fail to take into account the context of their detention.” Israeli diplomats told The Post that “minors are not innocent by virtue of simply being minors,” that neither the dangerous nature of rock-throwing nor the murderous intent of some Palestinian minors should be downplayed and that rock throwing has caused numerous deaths.[2]

B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation, collates figures on Palestinian minors detained by Israel, which are provided by the Israeli police and Israeli Prison Service (IPS). The most recent figures from the end of November 2017 show that 313 Palestinian minors were held in Israeli prisons as security detainees and prisoners, including 2 administrative detainees[3].Another 9 Palestinian minors were held in Israel Prison Service facilities for being in Israel illegally.

[1]     This information was contained in correspondence from the Embassy to the FCO which was obtained via a Freedom of Information request in August 2017.

[2]     ‘Exclusive: UK Singles Out Israel In Effort To ‘Protect’ Palestinian Minors’, The Jerusalem Post, 24 April 2017.

[3]     B’Tselem use a snapshot- i.e. a figure on a given day, in this case the last day of the month, so these are not cumulative figures. These figures do not include children detained by the military and held for short periods (generally less than 24 hours) without entering an IPS facility.

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