The institutionalized discrimination experienced by 700 Palestinian children prosecuted in Israel's military courts each year is unsustainable and must end.
"UK ready to take on Israel over fate of children clapped in irons," read the headline in a leading UK newspaper the morning after the latest report on the treatment of Palestinian children held in military detention was released in London in June. The Foreign Office-funded report -- Children in Military Custody -- was written by a delegation of UK lawyers that included a former Attorney General and a judge of the Court of Appeal, following their visit to Israel and the West Bank last September.
The report, the findings of which have been described as "shocking" and "damning," describes how children as young as 12 years are prosecuted in military courts after being arrested by soldiers in terrifying night-time raids. The report refers to evidence collected by Israeli and Palestinian lawyers, as well as UN agencies, which describes an abusive system in which children are threatened and physically coerced into signing confessions, some of which are written in Hebrew, a language they do not understand. Following their conviction in a military court, most of the children are shipped off to prisons in Israel, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits their transfer out of the West Bank. Further, the report found that the military's treatment of Palestinian children also violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child in a number of key respects.