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No UNICEF updates for 3 years

[26 February 2018] - This month marks 3 years since UNICEF published its last update to the 2013 report - Children in Israeli Military Detention - which concluded that "the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized."

Following the release of the UNICEF report and its 38 recommendations, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it would “study the conclusions and work to implement them through on-going cooperation with UNICEF”. In accordance with this commitment the Ministry appointed the then military prosecutor in the West Bank, Lt. Col. Maurice Hirsch, as the "focal point for dialogue with UNICEF", although as a resident of an illegal West Bank settlement, this appointment appears to have been highly inappropriate.
In October 2013, UNICEF released its first update reviewing progress made towards implementing the report's 38 recommendations during the intervening 7 months (UNICEF: Bulletin No. 1 - October 2013). In the Bulletin, UNICEF noted that since the publication of the report, "the Military Prosecutor has been engaging closely with UNICEF and has been reviewing the recommendations."
In the Bulletin UNICEF listed a number of actions and developments that had occurred including the issue by the IDF Legal Advisor to the heads of all Brigades, Divisions, Police and Military Police operating in the West Bank reminding all units of existing Standard Operating Procedures and policies in relation to the arrest of minors. However, based on a sample of recent evidence collected by UNICEF, every child reported experiencing some form of ill-treatment and no child was granted access to a lawyer in accordance with military law.
In February 2015, UNICEF released a second update reviewing progress made since the publication of the report (UNICEF: Bulletin No. 2 - February 2015). Again the update listed a number of actions and developments that had occurred during the intervening 2-years, but also noted that "reports of alleged ill-treatment of children during arrest, transfer, interrogation and detention have not significantly decreased in 2013 and 2014." Based on a sample of 208 affidavits taken from children detained since 2013, UNICEF reported that 82 percent experienced physical violence and 78 percent were not adequately informed of their legal rights.
Since just prior to the release of UNICEF's second Bulletin in 2015, there has been a noticeable decline in the Israeli government's willingness to engage on issues relating to child detention in any meaningful way. For example:
  1. In 2014 the Netanyahu government rejected a US-Palestinian proposal to establish an anti-incitement committee to review individual cases of incitement committed by either side;
  2. In February 2016, a return visit by a delegation of UK lawyers to update an earlier report on the issue (Children in Military Custody (2012)) was cancelled due to the unwillingness of the Netanyahu government to engage. By way of contrast, the delegation received full Israeli government co-operation when it visited the region in 2011; and
  3. In 2017 the Netanyahu government rejected an invitation from the UK government to attend discussions with the Metropolitan Police to share their 30 years experience implementing regulations designed specifically to protect the rights of minors in detention.
In November 2016, Lt. Col. Hirsch retired as military prosecutor in the West Bank in order to take up a consultancy position with an Israeli non-governmental organisation, NGO Monitor. Fourteen months on and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs appears not have appointed a replacement dialogue officer and progress in implementing UNICEF's 38 recommendations has stalled.
It is unclear whether the reduced level of Israeli government engagement has hampered UNICEF's ability to release any further updates, although the UN agency does continue to collect data from the field. In 2017, MCW conducted a review of progress made in implementing UNICEF's 38 recommendations and concluded that 1 recommendation has been substantially implemented - an implementation rate of 2.6 percent.
MCW will continue to monitor the situation.