Australian diplomats appear to ignore Foreign Minister's instructions
[3 March 2017] – A recent question in the Australian parliament suggests that Australian diplomats based in Tel Aviv and Ramallah have, for the past five years, ignored an instruction given by the former Foreign Minister to visit and report back on conditions for children in Israeli military courts.
Following the 2011 publication of a story in The Australian newspaper ("Stone Cold Justice
") about the treatment of children held in Israeli military detention, Australia's then Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, told the newspaper that he would raise reports of mistreatment with his Israeli counterpart and seek a report on conditions
from Australian diplomats based in the region following their visit to the court.
Five years later, Senator Janet Rice
asked the current Foreign Minister "on how many occasions has an official from the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv or the Australian Representative Office in Ramallah attended a hearing of a Palestinian minor in the military courts?"
In February 2017, Senator Brandis
, on behalf of the current Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, replied that: "Since January 2008, Australian officials have not attended a hearing of a Palestinian minor in a military court."â€¨
It is unclear why, contrary to most diplomatic missions in the region, Australian diplomats continue to avoid visiting the military courts and witnessing proceedings involving children. This reluctance appears out of step with the Australian Federal parliament where 20 percent of parliamentarians recently expressed concerns about the treatment of minors held in military detention.
The recent expression of concern in the Australian parliament follows a report issued by UNICEF
in 2013 which concluded that "the treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and instutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until the child's prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing" - a finding recently confirmed by evidence collected by Military Court Watch
By way of contrast, in the last two months of 2016, 11 diplomats from the UK based in London, Tel Aviv and East Jerusalem attended the hearings of children at Ofer military court.
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