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UK lawyers' report - 5 years on

[26 June 2017] - Today marks 5 years since a delegation of UK lawyers reviewed the treatment of Palestinian children under Israeli military law and published their findings and recommendations in a report. The Foreign Office funded report - Children in Military Custody - found undisputed evidence that the military detention system violated at least 6 articles under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and 2 articles under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The delegation, led by a former Court of Appeal judge and a former Attorney General, made 40 recommendations including recommendations relating to: introducing a pilot scheme to use summonses in lieu of night arrests; providing reasons for arrest; the use of blindfolds and restraints; physical abuse; the right to silence; access to parents and a lawyer prior to interrogation; and the location of detention inside occupied territory in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention.
According to the most recent review of evidence collected by MCW and based on the testimonies of 127 children detained by the military in 2016:
  1. Night arrests - 53 percent of children continue to report being arrested by the military at night between the hours of 22:00 and 05:00. Night arrest operations have a tendency to intimidate and terrify the targeted communities and children report being "scared" or “terrified” when confronted with heavily armed soldiers in their homes and bedrooms. This sense of fear is increased in cases where the front door is broken in or blown open with explosives.
  2. Summons in lieu of night arrests - 2 percent of children continue to report being served with a summons as an alternative to night arrest. The pilot scheme to issue summonses in lieu of night arrests was introduced in 2014 and appears to have reached its peak in 2015 with summonses used in 10 percent of cases. In cases where summonses are used most continue to be delivered at night, frequently lack details about the accusation, are sometimes written in Hebrew and provide no information about the child's legal rights in custody.
  3. Written notification of arrest - 61 percent of cases where children were arrested from home it was reported that no written notification of the reasons for arrest or place of detention was provided. This is despite the military informing UNICEF in April 2013 that a standard form written in Arabic and Hebrew must be given to parents of children arrested at home in every case (Arabic/English). In some cases where the standard form was provided, information relevant to that particular individual was handwritten in Hebrew. It should be noted that these forms still do not include any information about the child's legal rights while in custody.
  4. Hand ties - 94 percent of children continue to report being hand tied upon arrest often described as being “painful” or “very tight and painful”. Children frequently remain tied for extended periods including during interrogation. In some cases their hands become swollen or bleed. Children continue to be shackled by the ankles during military court appearances. In 76 percent of cases where children are restrained the evidence indicates non-compliance with the military's own standard operating procedures introduced in 2010.
  5. Blindfolds - 81 percent of children continue to report being blindfolded or hooded upon arrest in disregard of a recommendation that this practice should be prohibited in all circumstances. In a few cases children also report that they remained blindfolded for at least part of their interrogation with no apparent purpose other than to intimidate.
  6. Physical abuse - 64 percent of children continue to report being subjected to various forms of physical abuse during arrest, transfer and/or interrogation. The types of reported abuse includes: head-butting; tripping; aggressively dragging; kicking; beating; punching; Tasered; struck with objects including sticksweapons and helmets; and the deliberate over-tightening of restraints. Some children also report being deliberately sleep deprived prior to interrogation.
  7. Right to silence -86 percent of children continue to report not being informed of their right to silence. In the 14 percent of cases where children were informed of this right, the manner and circumstances in which the information was conveyed raises serious questions as to whether the notification is sufficient. In some cases the child was informed of his right to silence at the conclusion of the interrogation or after multiple interrogations.
  8. Access to lawyers - 88 percent of children continue to report being denied access to a lawyer prior to questioning. Under Israeli military law a detainee must be informed of the right to consult with a lawyer on arrival at a police station, and to be meaningful the consultation must take place prior to questioning. Some children report being informed of their right to consult with a lawyer but are questioned before the consultation takes place. Other children report only being informed of their right to consult with a lawyer at the end of the interrogation. In some cases children are asked to sign a document falsely acknowledging that they have been appropriately informed of their rights. Most continue to see their lawyer for the first time in the military courts.
  9. Accompanied by a parent - 94 percent of children continue to report not being accompanied by a parent throughout their interrogation. Whilst there is no legal right under Israeli military law for a parent to accompany a child during interrogation, the military authorities have acknowledged that there is a discretion to permit parents to accompany their children. Be that as it may parents who do show up at an interrogation centre where their child is being questioned are frequently turned away.
  10. Unlawful transfer and detention outside occupied territory - On 27 June 2016, the UK Government again confirmed that "Israel's detention of Palestinian prisoners within Israel to be contrary to Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention." According to the most recent data released by the Israeli Prison Service, 84 percent of Palestinian detainees continue to be held inside Israel and the military authorities have notified UNICEF that they have no intention of changing this policy.
In February 2016, a follow-up mission by the legal delegation announced that their imminent visit to the region to review progress in implementing the report's 40 recommendations had been cancelled due to a lack of co- operation by Israeli civilian and military authorities. 
Following a review of developments in the system as well as the testimonies of 480 children detained between 2013 and 2017, the evidence indicates that just one of the UK report's 40 recommendations - the separation of children from adults while in custody - has been substantially implemented. This represents an implementation rate of just 2.5 percent in spite of these issues being repeatedly raised by UK officials with their Israeli counterparts during the intervening 5 years.