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Israeli army taking steps to change Palestinian child arrest policy

By Bill Cohen - 16 October 2013

The Israel Defense Forces is introducing changes to its policies regarding the arrest and interrogation of Palestinian minors in the West Bank, UNICEF said in a statement issued Monday.
The agency called the statement a first progress report after the March 2013 publication of a briefing paper, “Children in Israeli military detention,” that has led to ongoing cooperation on the matter between UNICEF and Israel’s Military Advocate General, among other Israeli and Palestinian government agencies and organizations.
According to the latest statement, in September the IDF Central Command agreed to pilot-test a new approach in two unspecified regions of the West Bank. Instead of arresting children wanted for questioning at their homes at night, any such arrests will take place during daylight hours.
But Haaretz has learned that this policy has yet to be implemented, and the UNICEF announcement was a surprise to officers who are involved. According to military sources, the Central Command and MAG are still drafting the pilot program. The IDF Spokesman’s Office declined to provide details of the change in policy, saying only that the program is being examined by the relevant officials.
Human rights groups working in the West Bank have long recommended such a policy change. “This is a critical development, in line with one of [UNICEF’s] most important recommendations, which states that 'arrests of children should be conducted during daylight, notwithstanding exceptional and grave situations,’” the UNICEF press release said.
IDF operations against Palestinian children have been the target of complaints for a long time. In 2011, following sharp criticism by human rights groups over the arrest, interrogation and trial of Palestinian minors, the IDF raised the age of minority for Palestinians by amending the relevant military legislation. Until two years ago, only Palestinians under 15 were considered minors, in contrast to 18 within Israel. Since this change, suspects under 18 are tried as minors before military judges who have received training as juvenile judges.