Dutch Foreign Minister notes lack of progress in implementing UNICEF's recommendations
[15 May 2014] – On 13 May 2014, the Dutch Foreign Minister, Frans Timmermans, issued a statement (Dutch) concerning the treatment of Palestinian children held in Israeli military custody and the lack of progress in implementing recommendations made by UNICEF. An unofficial translation of the statement follows. The full statement in Dutch is available on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.
I hereby present to you the cabinet’s response to the report published by Military Court Watch: 'The UNICEF Report - one year on', following a request by the Commission of Foreign Affairs on 4 April 2014 (2014Z06134/2014D12175).
In February 2013, UNICEF published a critical report on the situation of Palestinian minors in Israeli military detention. According to the report maltreatment of Palestinian minors is widespread, systematic and institutionalised. In a letter dated 4 October 2013 (2013.276878), the cabinet gave a response on the situation of minor Palestinians in military detention. In this letter the cabinet expressed its concerns about the situation and announced it would continue to raise the issue with the Israeli authorities.
The UNICEF report: progress
The report 'The UNICEF Report: Children in Israeli Military Detention' by Military Court Watch, published in March 2014, evaluates UNICEF’s recommendations. Military Court Watch concludes that five of the 38 UNICEF recommendations have seen (limited) progress. The mentioned improvements include: a decline in detention of 12 to 14 year-olds and acknowledgement that the detention of minors should be exceptional; a rise in the number of children who are being handed over to the Palestinian Authority after a limited amount of time in Israeli detention; shortening of the legal amount of time before children below the age of 14 should be brought before a judge; and making medical files available for lawyers. Despite these improvements the overall picture of how minor prisoners are being treated in the Israeli military court system, as outlined in the Military Court Watch report, is cause for concern.
Report 'Palestinian children and military detention’
Your Chamber [the Parliament] was presented a report by a group of experts, led by Professor Jaap Doek and commissioned by the organisations Palestine Link and gate48, on 17 April. This report was presented to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 24 April, where it was handed over to the Human Rights Ambassador. The conclusions of this report are similar to earlier reports on the subject, including the UNICEF report. The report emphasises the conditions in detention and programmes for social reintegration.
Despite repeated assurances by the Israeli government to work on implementing the recommendations contained in the UNICEF report, it seems that there has been only very limited improvement in the situation of Palestinian child prisoners. Reports by UNICEF, Military Court Watch and other UN agencies contain concrete recommendations concerning changes to the law and implementation. The Cabinet will raise these recommendations in their discussions with the Israeli government.
The Cabinet will continue to raise the issue of Palestinian children in Israeli detention in their bilateral contacts with Israel and where possible within the framework of the EU. The Netherlands will continue to call upon the Israeli authorities to provide Palestinian children with the same rights as children under Israeli criminal law. The Netherlands has already made this recommendation during the Universal Periodic Review of Israel at the UN Human Rights Council in October 2013. As this recommendation has not been implemented by Israel, the Netherlands has put the topic on the agenda of the EU-Israel human rights dialogue.
At present the Netherlands is in contact with the authorities to determine whether a visit by the Human Rights ambassador to the region is possible. The Netherlands will continue giving support in the coming years to Israeli and Palestinian organizations that are monitoring the situation and are engaging in a dialogue on this with the authorities.
Minister of Foreign Affairs