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UK lawyers' report - 3 years on
[22 June 2014] – This week marks three years since a delegation of UK lawyers published the report - Children in Military Custody (the Report). The Foreign Office funded report reviewed how children are treated in Israel’s military detention system taking into account both the legal framework and practice. Based on certain undisputed facts, the Report found that Israel was in breach of eight of its international legal obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Fourth Geneva Convention arising out of its treatment of children held in military detention. The Report found violations relating to the following legal obligations:
·      Discrimination;
·      Child’s best interests;
·      Premature resort to detention;
·      Non-separation from adults;
·      Prompt access to lawyers;
·      Use of shackles;
·      Unlawful transfer and detention outside occupied territory; and
·      Failure to translate applicable laws.
The Report also found that if the allegations of ill-treatment during arrest, transfer, interrogation and detention are true, then Israel will also be in breach of the prohibition on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment found in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Three years on, improvements have been made in relation to the separation of adults from children in detention and the translation of some military orders into Arabic. However, limited or no progress has been made in compliance with Israel’s obligations relating to discrimination, best interests, premature resort to detention, prompt access to lawyers, use of shackles and the unlawful transfer of prisoners out of occupied territory. It is relevant to note that although the transfer of protected persons out of occupied territory constitutes a war crime under Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the military authorities have informed UNICEF that they have no intention of reversing this policy.
In February 2015, UNICEF issued a Bulletin (No.2) highlighting some of the recent developments in the military detention system but concluded that “reports of alleged ill-treatment of children during arrest, transfer, interrogation and detention have not significantly decreased in 2013 and 2014”.
In April 2015, MCW issued a Progress Report following a review of 185 testimonies and concluded that in spite of a significant level of official activity including dialogue, amendments to the military law and the re-issuance of standard operating procedures, there has been little significant reduction in the level of reported ill-treatment which still appears to be “widespread, systematic and institutionalized”.
In June 2015, MCW lodged a submission with the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture annexing 200 cases of children detained since 2013. The submission estimates that since June 1967, around 95,000 Palestinian children have been detained by the Israeli military and draws a direct link between detention and continued settlement activity in the West Bank.
In August 2014, the delegation of UK lawyers cancelled a planned trip to return to the region after being informed that no official in the State of Israel was available to meet with them. It is estimated that since the delegation last came to the region, over 3,500 children have been detained.
During the intervening three years, a series of UK government ministers have made statements to parliament regarding developments, however the evidence indicates that these changes have not had a significant impact on reducing the reports of abuse.
MCW will continue to monitor the situation.