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US State Department Annual Global Report 2012

[30 April 2013] The US State Department recently published its annual global report on human rights for 2012. The report identifies arbitrary arrest and associated torture and abuse as one of the three most significant human rights abuses in Israel and Palestine. In the report the State Department notes that Israeli authorities continue to apply two distinct legal systems in the West Bank, one military and one civilian, depending on whether the individual is Palestinian or an Israeli settler. For Palestinians prosecuted in the military court system, the State Department notes that the conviction rate is over 99 percent.

The report considers in detail the treatment of children prosecuted in the Israeli military courts and notes that: 
  • Parents and children are usually not informed why a child is being arrested or where the child is being taken at the time of arrest.
  • Children continue to report that they are beaten, hand-tied for extended periods, threatened, intimidated and in some cases, held in solitary confinement in order to coerce confessions.
  • Most reported abuse occurs within the first 48 hours following arrest.
  • Most children only see their lawyer for the first time in court after their interrogation is over.
  • Where a child’s family cannot afford a lawyer, legal services are generally provided by NGOs and paid for by international donors, not the Israeli military authorities.
  • Proceedings in the military courts are conducted in Hebrew with translation provided by enlisted soldiers, not professional translators, which is often insufficient.
  • Recent changes to the military law have not been translated into Arabic.
  • The military courts process thousands of Palestinians each year, including between 500-700 children, but they are ill-equipped to adjudicate each case properly.
The State Department also notes that despite more than 600 complaints filed since 1999 against Israeli Security Agency interrogators, not one torture complaint resulted in a criminal investigation, let alone a prosecution or conviction.
 
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