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UK lawyers say Israeli child detention practices illegal

June 27, 2012 10:45 A.M. (Updated: June 28, 2012 11:10 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A delegation of senior British lawyers on Tuesday released a report saying Israel's treatment of Palestinian children in custody breaks international law.

The independent study, backed by the UK government, documents testimony by the UN, Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian children that minors are subject to shackling, hooding and solitary confinement.

"To hold children routinely and for substantial periods in solitary confinement would, if it occurred, be capable of amounting to torture," the report says.

Seizing children in night raids, physical and verbal abuse, and keeping them from their parents also breaks international prohibitions on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, it adds.

Rights groups estimate around 700 Palestinian children are detained by Israel every year.

The report also notes that by applying separate legal regimes for Israeli and Palestinian children, Israel is in breach of international laws against discrimination.

Israeli children cannot be jailed under the age of 14, while Palestinian children as young as 12 have been held by Israel. Israeli children must be given access to a lawyer within 48 hours, whereas Palestinians can be held for three months without legal aid.

"Under international law, no state is entitled to discriminate between those over whom it exercises penal jurisdiction on the basis of their race or nationality. Unequal or differential justice is not justice," the report says.

Israel is also breaking international humanitarian law by transferring Palestinian children from an occupied territory into Israel, it notes.

The report also welcomes recent legal improvements, which introduced juvenile courts into the military system that rules Palestinians, but notes "in spite of legal reform, practices are not changing."

The UK Foreign Office told British newspaper The Independent that the report was funded due to the government's long-standing concerns about Israel's treatment of Palestinian children in custody.

"We share many of the report's concerns, and will continue to lobby for further improvements," the newspaper quoted the department saying. The nine-member British delegation included a former Attorney General and Court of Appeal judge.

The Palestinian Authority welcomed the report, saying British lobbying "will exert a much needed pressure on Israel to change its abusive policies. "

A government statement said: "The importance of the report emerges not only from the severity of its conclusions, but also from being investigated and published by an external, independent delegation, whose integrity cannot be challenged."

The PA called for further international delegations to examine other human rights breaches, including home demolitions and settlement expansion.
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