Within several days of arrest, most children will be transferred from military or police custody to the Israeli Prison Service (IPS). The IPS is the authority responsible for all Israeli prisons that separately accommodates both Israeli “criminal” and Palestinian “security” prisoners. It should be noted that most Palestinian prisoners convicted by the military courts are classified as “security” prisoners.
There are approximately 20 IPS prison facilities used to accommodate Palestinian detainees of which two, Ofer and Megiddo prisons, are most commonly used to hold children. Other facilities also used to hold children include Ha’sharon prison (for girls), Al Jalame and Al Mascobiyya for interrogations (Map). Only in Megiddo prison, and to some extend Ofer prison, are there separate facilities for children.
Detention outside the West Bank
Only one prison (Ofer) operated by the IPS is located inside the West Bank. The other 19 facilities are all located inside Israel. Under Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention all Palestinian detainees are supposed to be held in the West Bank. Further, any violation of this Article attracts personal criminal liability for any person directly or indirectly involved in the transfer, by virtue of Articles 146 and 147 of the same Convention. In spite of these binding legal principles, each month around 50 per cent of Palestinian child detainees are held in prisons inside Israel, with over 85 per cent of Palestinian adult prisoners similarly being transferred (statistics). In addition to being illegal this violation makes it difficult, and sometimes impossible, for family visits due to freedom of movement restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities.
Although there are some reports of violence by prison authorities towards children, the most common complaints concern poor quality food and boredom.
Family visits and communication
Under IPS regulations, families of detainees must apply for a permit to visit the prison. In some cases these permits are denied for unspecified “security” reasons. In other cases the time it takes for a permit to be approved can exceed the period of incarceration, resulting in no family visits. If permits are approved, two family members may visit a child in prison once every two weeks for 45 minutes. These visits are non-contact and take place either side of a glass screen. Unlike their Israeli counterparts, Palestinian child detainees held in IPS facilities are not permitted any telephone communication with their families.
Education opportunities for Palestinian children inside IPS facilities are limited. Where education is available, it is generally restricted to Arabic and mathematics, with a prohibition on teaching history, geography and the sciences based on “security considerations”.
Updated: August 2016