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UK lawyers' report - 9-years on

[15 June 2021] – This month marks 9 years since a delegation of UK lawyers reviewed the treatment of Palestinian children under Israeli military law and published their findings and recommendations.[i] The Foreign Office funded report – Children in Military Custody – found undisputed evidence that the military detention system violates at least 6 articles under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and 2 articles under the Fourth Geneva Convention.[ii] The report concluded by making 40 recommendations. 

In the immediate years following the report there were a number of positive developments in the system including: a new military order reducing the time within which a child must be brought before a judge following arrest; the introduction of a form notifying parents of the reason for arrest and place of detention; re-issuance of the military’s standard operating procedures for the arrest of children to all military units serving in the West Bank; the introduction of a form notifying children of their legal rights; and a pilot scheme to issue summonses in lieu of night arrests.
MCW has reviewed progress made in implementing the report’s 40 recommendations and concludes that 1 recommendation has been substantially implemented in 9 years – an implementation rate of 2.5 percent.[iii] According to the latest evidence
  • 45 percent of children continue to be arrested at night. The pilot study to issue summonses in lieu of night arrests recommended by the FCO delegation is now largely defunct. According to the military authorities no records were maintained during the study making any internal assessment impossible, thus casting doubt on the bona fides of its implementation. 
  • 99 percent of children continue to be zip-tied with most complaining of "pain" or "severe pain". In 90 percent of these cases, the Israeli military's own regulations for the use of ties are disregarded. In some cases, children report loss of sensation to their hands, hands turning blue due to lack of circulation, swelling, and cuts to their wrists resulting in bleeding
  • 93 percent of children continue to be blindfolded. In 2019, lawyers for the military authorities informed Israel's Supreme Court “that military orders and regulations forbid blindfolding of detainees, and action to clarify the rules has been taken and will continue to be taken on a continuous basis.” This statement cannot be reconciled with the evidence.
  • 51 percent of children continue to be transported from the place of arrest to an interrogation centre on the metal floor of military vehicles while tied and blindfolded. Once on the floor children report experiencing further stress and injury including reports of being beatenkickedverbally abused and spat on by the soldiers seated above them. 
  • 73 percent of children continue to report experiencing some form of physical abuse following their arrest. These reports are at an all-time high since the FCO delegation issued its report in 2012. Reported violence includes: punchingkickingslapping, put in a stress position and struck with objects such as guns.
  • 76 percent of children continue to report being threatened, usually during the course of their interrogation. Reported threats include: long-term detention; threats of violencedeath threats; cancellation of family work permitsarrest of other family members, such as mothers or sisters; tasering, placed in solitary confinement and threats to demolish the family home. 
  • 92 percent of children are not informed of their right to silence under Israeli military law. Children are sometimes misled as to the nature of the right or yelled at if they refuse to answer. Some children who are informed of the right are only done so after they have confessed and are asked to sign documents stating they have been informed of their rights. 
  • 81 percent of children are not informed of their right to consult with a lawyer under Israeli military law prior to interrogation in spite of this right being recognised as a "fundamental right" by Israel's Supreme Court. In cases where a child does consult a lawyer, this consists of a brief phone call generally overheard by an interrogator. 
  • In the last 12 months, MCW has not documented any cases in which a child was accompanied by a parent throughout the course of their interrogation. While there is no right under Israeli military law for a parent to be present, the military authorities acknowledge that there is a discretion to permit parents to attend an interrogation. 
  • 73 percent of children continue to be transferred and/or unlawfully detained in prisons inside Israel in violation of article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and article 8 2(a)(vii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. A number of European governments, including the UK, support targeted sanctions against Russia for similarly transferring prisoners from Crimea. 
  • Since October 2020, the Israeli Prison Service has ceased to comply with a longstanding Freedom of Information Application filed by the Israeli organisation, B'tselem, to provide detailed monthly statistics. Instead, the IPS now provides less detailed information every quarter
With the full support of the Foreign Office the delegation, including Keir Starmer QC MP, sought to return to Israel/Palestine in February 2016 in order to review progress in implementing the report’s recommendations.[iv] However, several days before the delegation was due to arrive in Tel Aviv they were informed that the Israeli government was unwilling to engage with the lawyers and as a result the trip was cancelled. The delegation issued a statement saying they would prepare a brief updating report on the 40 recommendations and would welcome the opportunity to meet with Israeli officials in the future. 
As of June 2021, the FCO funded delegation has not produced the "brief updating report" referred to in 2016. 


[i] The original delegation was comprised of 9 lawyers: Greg Davies, Jayne Harrill, Marianna Hildyard QC, Judy Khan QC, Jude Lanchin, Marc Mason, Frances Oldham QC, the Rt Hon the Baroness Patricia Scotland of Asthal QC (former Shadow Attorney General and Attorney General of England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Rt Hon Sir Stephen Sedley (formerly Lord Justice Sedley).
[ii] The report found that Israel’s military child detention system violates at least 6 articles under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:
(i)      Article 2 – discrimination;
(ii)     Article 3 – best interests;
(iii)    Article 37(b) – premature resort to detention;
(iv)    Article 37(c) – non-separation from adults;
(v)     Article 37(d) – prompt access to lawyers; 
(vi)    Article 40 – use of shackles.
The report also found that Israel will be in breach of the prohibition on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in Article 37(a) of the Convention if multiple reports of ill-treatment are, to a significant extent, correct. The report also found violations of 2 articles under the Fourth Geneva Convention:
(i)      Article 65 - Failure to translate all military orders from Hebrew to Arabic;
(ii)     Article 76 - Transportation of child prisoners out of the West Bank to prisons inside Israel.
[iii] The recommendation that has been substantially implemented is the separation of child prisoners from adults. 
[iv] With some members of the original delegation unavailable for the trip, additional members joined the group, including: Lord Falconer (former Lord Chancellor); Sir Mark Hedley (former High Court Judge of the Family Division); Sir Keir Starmer QC MP (former Director of Public Prosecutions), Paul Storey QC (Children Law Barrister and Deputy High Court Judge); and Martha Cover (Children Law Barrister and Association of Lawyers for Children).