UCC passes resolution to support Palestinian child detainees

Israeli forces arrest Palestinian demonstrators amid clashes in the West Bank village of Beita, southeast of Nablus, on April 21, 2017. (AFP / Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

[Source Defense for Children International - Palestine]

Ramallah, July 7, 2017—The United Church of Christ (UCC) overwhelmingly passed a resolution last Sunday, calling on Israeli authorities to end widespread and systematic human rights abuses against Palestinian children in Israeli military detention.

The resolution, led by the UCC Palestine/Israel Network and brought forward by 16 individual UCC churches at the 31st General Synod of the UCC in Baltimore last weekend, passed with an overwhelming 79 percent majority. It calls on the U.S. government to withhold military aid from Israel due to systematic human rights violations against Palestinian child detainees, and urges Israel “to guarantee basic due process rights and exercise an absolute prohibition against torture and ill-treatment of detained children.”

“This resolution comes at a desperately urgent moment as Palestinian children are being detained in greater numbers and suffering severe abuse at the hands of Israeli forces,” said Beth Miller, U.S. advocacy officer for DCIP, who was present for the vote. “In passing this call to action with a strong majority, UCC joins a growing movement of people in the U.S. demanding a safe and just future for Palestinian children.”

Advocates in favor of a resolution in support of Palestinian children await voting results at the 31st General Synod of the UCC in Baltimore on July 2, 2017. (Photo: FOSNA) Overhead screens show voting results for a resolution in support of Palestinian children at 31st General Synod of the UCC. (Photo: DCIP)
Advocates in favor of a resolution in support of Palestinian children await voting results at the 31st General Synod of the UCC in Baltimore on July 2, 2017. (Photo: FOSNA) Overhead screens display voting results of resolution in support of Palestinian children at the 31st General Synod of the UCC in Baltimore on July 2, 2017. (Photo: DCIP)

Before the floor opened for debate and a vote, members of the Council for Youth and Young Adult Ministry presented their support for the resolution. “I go to bed at night knowing that I am safe, knowing that I am protected,” said one of the three teenagers who spoke, after describing the Israeli military’s practice of arresting children from their homes in the middle of the night. “These children aren’t so fortunate.”

UCC is a mainline Protestant denomination established in 1957 with over 5,000 congregations and nearly one million members in the United States.

In June 2016, the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly passed a motion on the rights of Palestinian children with over 80 percent approval. The motion specifically called to "mobilize Presbyterians everywhere to communicate with their senators, congresspersons, and the president of the United States their concern for the safety and well-being of the children of Palestine who suffer widespread and systematic patterns of ill-treatment and torture within the Israeli military detention system."

Amid escalating violence at the end of 2015, the number of Palestinian children detained in the Israeli prison system spiked dramatically. At the end of March 2016, 444 Palestinian children were in the Israeli prison system, the highest known total since January 2008 when the IPS began sharing data.

According to data released by the Israel Prison Service (IPS), 331 Palestinian children were detained in Israeli prisons at the end of May 2017, a 62 percent increase from IPS data from 2012 to 2015 when Israel held an average of 204 Palestinian children in custody each month.

DCIP has also documented a significant increase in the use of administrative detention and solitary confinement against Palestinian children over the last two years.

International juvenile justice standards, which Israel has obliged itself to implement by signing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1991, demand that children should only be deprived of their liberty as a measure of last resort and the best interests of the child must be a primary concern. The universal and absolute prohibition of torture enshrined in international law means that no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes between 500 and 700 children, some as young as 12, in military courts each year that lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees.

Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCIP) is a local, independent Palestinian human rights organization committed to securing a just and viable future for Palestinian children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.