[2 March 2016] – On 1 March 2016, Military Court Watch (MCW) lodged a complaint submission under the UN Special Procedures mechanism relating to the treatment of children held in Israeli military detention in 2015. The submission has been lodged with the UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and the Palestinian territories as well as the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
Following a finding by UNICEF in 2013 that “the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process” (UNICEF: Children in Israeli military detention) the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it would: “[S]tudy the conclusions and work to implement them through on-going cooperation with UNICEF”.
During the course of the intervening three years there has been a significant level of dialogue between UNICEF and the military authorities as well as a number of developments in the system including: a pilot study to use summonses in lieu of night-time arrests; distribution of forms notifying parents of the reasons for arrest and place of detention; re-issuing Standard Operating Procedures relating to the treatment of minors including the use of restraints and blindfolds; mandating the audio-visual recording of all interrogations of minors suspected of “non-security” related offences; and a reduction in the time in which a minor must be brought before a judge following arrest.
Despite these developments, UNICEF published an update to its original report in February 2015 in which it concluded that: “reports of alleged ill-treatment of children during arrest, transfer, interrogation and detention have not significantly decreased in 2013 and 2014”.
MCW’s submission reviews the developments in the system and analyses the findings from 163 testimonies collected from children detained by the military during 2015. MCW concludes that UNICEF’s finding of “widespread, systematic and institutionalized” ill-treatment was still valid in 2015 and the policy of unlawfully transferring Palestinian minors from the West Bank to prisons inside Israel in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court continued unabated.