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Palestinian children 'subject to violence' in Israeli jails

March 20, 2012 4:27 P.M. (Updated: March 23, 2012 6:09 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian children are systematically ill-treated in Israeli detention, and in some cases tortured, an international child rights group said on Tuesday.

The report by Defence for Children International records that a majority of children are detained from villages near "friction points" -- Israeli settlements in the West Bank, or Israeli military and settler-only roads.

Around 7,500 Palestinians under-18 years old have been detained by Israel since 2001, an average of nearly two children every day, DCI says.

Documenting testimonies of 311 children detained by Israel over four years, the report found that three-quarters of children say they were subjected to physical violence during Israeli detention.

Some 95 percent say they were held in hand ties, and 90 percent tell of being blindfolded. A third were strip-searched during detention, according to the report testimonies.

Most children experience a "coercive interrogation," DCI said, noting that while initially protesting innocence, at least 90 percent finally plead guilty, "as this is the quickest way out of a system that denies children bail in 87 per cent of cases."

"Unlike Israeli children living in settlements in the West Bank, Palestinian children are not accompanied by a parent and are generally interrogated without the benefit of legal advice, or being informed of their right to silence," the report notes.

Most children confess to stone-throwing, the report says. The Israeli army says that rock throwing is a serious offense that can cause injury or death.

"Palestinian boys, sometimes as young as 13 or 14 engage in stone throwing by hand or sling shot on Israeli cars, or army vehicles," said Arye Shalitar, an Israeli military spokesman.

"It sounds like the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) is just arresting kids, but people don't understand that these kids are very violent. Instead of playing soccer they are endangering the lives of Israelis."

But DCI says much of the pattern of abuse amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as defined in the UN Convention against Torture, and Israel fails to provide effective complaint mechanisms.

At a minimum, the report recommends that Israel end night raids, administrative detention, solitary confinement and other ill-treatment. But it adds: "no child should be prosecuted in military courts which lack comprehensive fair trial and juvenile justice standards."

"No one should be under any illusion that the treatment documented in the report can be eliminated so long as the friction points (of settlements and military roads) remain and Palestinian children are treated as second-class individuals," the report says.

Reuters contributed to this report
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