The unlawful transfer of Ukrainian and Palestinian children
[12 December 2023] - The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, led by Karim Khan KC, took just 12 months to investigate the unlawful transfer and deportation of "at least hundreds of children" from occupied Ukraine to the Russian Federation and obtain arrest warrants from the Court for those responsible. An alleged war crime perpetrated against children protected under the Fourth Geneva Convention requiring prompt action.
Palestinian children are also being unlawfully transferred from the occupied West Bank to interrogation centres and prisons in Israel according to data
published by the Israel Prison Service (IPS). Although these children are entitled to protection under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which specifically prohibits
the transfer of detainees, no action has yet been taken even though the Office of the Prosecutor has been in possession of this evidence since 16 March 2015.
The circumstances surrounding the unlawful transfer of Ukrainian and Palestinian children are distinguishable in at least three respects, although both situations involve the transfer of protected persons from occupied territory in violation of international humanitarian law:
First, in the case of Ukraine, Russia appears to be taking children from orphanages in occupied territory and putting them up for adoption in the Russian Federation - thereby permanently depriving them of their homes. In the case of Palestine, Israel arrests children in the occupied West Bank and transfers them to interrogation facilities and prisons in Israel, before returning them to the occupied West Bank on completion of their sentences.
Secondly, there is a large body of evidence
stretching back decades indicating that Palestinian children are systematically mistreated during their arrest, transfer and interrogation in violation of the UN Convention against Torture, including the use of prolonged solitary confinement. This evidence includes reports from UNICEF
, the UN Secretary General
and the US State Department
. This element appears to be absent in the situation in Ukraine.
Thirdly, the sheer scale and duration of the situation in Israel/Palestine is a distinguishing feature. Based on data published by the IPS, as many as 580 children are unlawfully transferred each year, or about 32,000 since 1967. And while numerous UN Security Council Resolutions
have confirmed the application of the Fourth Geneva Convention in full to the occupied West Bank since 1967, the practice continues, with the imprimatur
of Israel's Supreme Court, amounting to a flagrant disregard for international humanitarian law and contempt for the rules based order and its institutions.
It is estimated that since the Office of the Prosecutor was in receipt of evidence relating to the unlawful transfer of Palestinian children from the occupied West Bank, a further 3,800 children were transferred. How much longer the rules based order can sustain this level of selectivity remains to be seen.