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MCW Progress Report - Children in Military Custody - 2 Years On
[1 September 2014] – In June 2012, a delegation of UK lawyers published the report – Children in Military Custody (UK Report). The Foreign Office funded report reviewed how children are treated in Israel’s military court system taking into account both the legal framework and practice. The report found breaches of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Fourth Geneva Convention and concluded by making 40 specific recommendations.
Two years on, MCW has published a report that reviews progress made in implementing the UK Report’s recommendations and finds that just 5 per cent have been substantially implemented. Whilst there have been a number of noteworthy developments during the past two years, including: a reduction in the time in which children must be brought before a military court judge for the first time; and the introduction of a pilot scheme to issue summonses in lieu of night-time arrests; children continue to report being ill-treated and denied basic legal rights. Following a review of developments and an analysis of 105 testimonies, MCW’s findings include:
1.         More children than last year report being tied and blindfolded upon arrest;
2.         More children than last year report being transported on the metal floor of vehicles; and
3.         More children than last year report being subjected to physical violence.
Whilst there has been a slight decrease in the number of children arrested at night following the introduction of the pilot scheme to issue summonses, 67 per cent of these summonses were served in the middle of the night by the military. And whilst it is the case that slightly more children are now being informed of their rights, 78 per cent of children are not told of their right to silence and 90 per cent are prevented from consulting with a lawyer prior to questioning. At the conclusion of the interrogation stage, more children than ever before are being shown, or made to sign, documentation written in Hebrew and taken before military courts that still boast an overall conviction rate above 99 per cent.
Based on the evidence, and the cumulative impact of the treatment on children, MCW is unable to provide an alternative assessment to the conclusion reached by UNICEF in March 2013, that: “[T]he ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.”
In August 2014, the UK delegation of British lawyers was booked to return to Israel/Palestine with a view to assessing progress made since the publication of the UK Report in June 2012. The return visit had to be postponed indefinitely due to the lack of availability of Israeli officials to meet with the delegation. The reason given for the lack of availability of any Israeli officials was the war in Gaza. MCW will continue to monitor developments.