The No Way to Treat a Child campaign seeks to challenge and end Israel's prolonged military occupation of Palestinians by exposing widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system. It is a joint project of Defense for Children International - Palestine and American Friends Service Committee.
Palestinian children have the right to a safe and just future. We believe the United States government must use all available means to pressure relevant Israeli authorities to end the detention and abuse of Palestinian children.
VISION AND MISSION
The No Way to Treat a Child campaign is committed to securing a just and viable future for Palestinian children living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and envisions a world where all children attain rights in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international standards.
The No Way to Treat a Child campaign implements an integrative approach that incorporates the use of the international human rights framework and movement building to advance the rights and protection of Palestinian children.
The No Way to Treat a Child campaign seeks to challenge and end Israel’s prolonged military occupation of Palestinians by organizing and supporting an extensive network of people demanding immediate protections for Palestinian children held in Israeli military detention where ill-treatment and torture is widespread, systematic, and institutionalized.
Approximately 2.9 million Palestinians live in the occupied West Bank, of which around 45 percent are children under the age of 18.
Palestinian children in the West Bank, like adults, face arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment under an Israeli military detention system that denies them basic rights.
Since 1967, Israel has operated two separate legal systems in the same territory. In the occupied West Bank, Israeli settlers are subject to the civilian and criminal legal system whereas Palestinians live under military law.
Israel applies civilian criminal law to Palestinian children in East Jerusalem. No Israeli child comes into contact with the military courts.
Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that automatically and systematically prosecutes children in military courts that lack fundamental fair trial rights and protections. Israel prosecutes between 500 and 700 Palestinian children in military courts each year.
Ill-treatment in the Israeli military detention system remains “widespread, systematic, and institutionalized throughout the process,” according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report Children in Israeli Military Detention Observations and Recommendations.
Children typically arrive to interrogation bound, blindfolded, frightened, and sleep-deprived.
Children often give confessions after verbal abuse, threats, physical and psychological violence that in some cases amounts to torture.
Israeli military law provides no right to legal counsel during interrogation, and Israeli military court judges seldom exclude confessions obtained by coercion or torture.
From testimonies of 641 Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces from the occupied West Bank and prosecuted in Israeli military courts between 2015 and 2019, DCIP found that:
- 72 percent experienced physical violence following arrest
- 94 percent were hand-tied
- 85 percent were blindfolded
- 54 percent were detained from their homes in the middle of the night
- 61 percent faced verbal abuse, humiliation, or intimidation
- 69 percent of children were not properly informed of their rights
- 97 percent were interrogated without the presence of a family member
- 22 percent were subject to stress positions
- 56 percent signed documents in Hebrew, a language most Palestinian children don’t understand
Since 2000, an estimated 10,000 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli forces from the occupied West Bank and held in the Israeli military detention system.
Israel in 1991 ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires that children should only be deprived of their liberty as a measure of last resort, must not be unlawfully or arbitrarily detained, and must not be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Despite sustained engagement by UNICEF and repeated calls to end night arrests and ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention, Israeli authorities have persistently failed to implement practical changes to stop violence against child detainees.
Reforms undertaken by Israeli military authorities so far have tended to be cosmetic in nature rather than substantively addressing physical violence and torture by Israeli military and police forces.
In no circumstance should children be detained or prosecuted under the jurisdiction of military courts. However, as a minimum safeguard, while Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation continue to be arrested and prosecuted within the Israeli military court system, Israeli authorities must respect and ensure basic due process rights and the absolute prohibition against torture and ill-treatment. From the moment of arrest, operations and procedures must be carried out in accordance with international juvenile justice standards, specifically the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including:
Detention must only be used as a last resort, and only for the shortest appropriate time;
Children must not be subjected to physical or psychological violence;
Children must have access to legal consultation and parents prior to and during interrogations;
Children must only be arrested during daylight hours;
Children must be properly informed of their right to silence;
Children must not be blindfolded or painfully restrained;
Children must not be subjected to coercive force or threats;
All interrogations must be audio-visually recorded;
Any incriminating evidence obtained during interrogation where a child was not properly and effectively informed of his or her right to silence must be excluded by the military courts;
Any statement made as a result of torture or ill-treatment must be excluded as evidence in any proceeding;
The practice of using solitary confinement on children in Israeli military detention, whether in pretrial detention for interrogation purposes or as a form of punishment, must be stopped immediately and the prohibition must be enshrined in law;
The practice of using administrative detention orders against Palestinian children must stop immediately and the prohibition must be enshrined in law;
All credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be thoroughly and impartially investigated in accordance with international standards, and perpetrators brought promptly to justice; and
- Children must not be transferred out of the West Bank in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
UNITED STATES CAMPAIGN LEADERSHIP
The No Way to Treat a Child campaign is coordinated by American Friends Service Committee and Defense for Children International - Palestine, and includes a network of autonomous organizations committed to shared decision making to influence U.S.-based audiences and decision makers in an effort to end Israeli military occupation and secure a just and viable future for Palestinian children living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory where all children attain rights in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international standards.
About Defense for Children International - Palestine
Defense for Children International - Palestine is an independent, local Palestinian child rights organization based in Ramallah dedicated to defending and promoting the rights of children living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. For over 25 years, we have investigated, documented and pursued accountability for grave human rights violations against children; held Israeli and Palestinian authorities accountable to universal human rights principles; and advocated at the international and national levels to advance access to justice and protection for children. We also provide direct legal aid to children in distress. For more information visit www.dci-palestine.org.
About the American Friends Service Committee
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) works for policies that reflect a cooperative search for solutions to protect our planet, reduce violent conflict, advance social justice, and meet global needs. Since 1948, AFSC has worked with Palestinians, Israelis, and the international community to realize a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis. In the United States AFSC works to educate audiences about Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory and supports activist efforts to change government policies and corporate/institutional practices that support inequality and the ongoing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory. AFSC also supports the implementation of international humanitarian and human rights law in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, promotes the implementation of Palestinian refugees’ right of return, and calls for full equality between Palestinians and Israelis.
NATIONAL CAMPAIGN PARTNERS
- American Muslims for Palestine
- Amnesty International – USA
- Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
- Christian Peacemaker Teams
- Friends Committee on National Legislation
- Friends of Sabeel North America
- Jewish Voice for Peace
- Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
- Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East
- United Church of Christ
- US Campaign for Palestinian Rights
Homepage photo credit: Wisam Hashlamoun / Flash90