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Child detention raised in UK parliamentary debate

[2 December 2014] - On 1 December 2014, the UK Parliament debated a motion on Palestine and the means to end the conflict. During the course of the debate the issue of the detention and prosecution of children in Israel’s military court system was raised. In this regard it was noted that according to a UNICEF report, Israel is the only country to systematically prosecute children in a military court system in which they are frequently subjected to “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. During the course of the debate it was also noted that the Israeli authorities apply different laws to children in the West Bank depending on whether they are Palestinian or Israeli settlers, with far reaching consequences concerning their respective rights and protections.

In keeping with previous statements made by various Government Ministers since the publication of the FCO funded report – Children in Military Custody (June 2012) (UK Report) - the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tobias Ellwood) stated that: “Britain is very concerned about that issue. We have raised the matter with the Israelis and are asking them to continue a pilot scheme allowing individuals to be summoned rather than arrests being made at night. We are also lobbying for an end to solitary confinement. We are very much concerned about the issue.”
In order to assess the impact of UK Government lobbying on the issue, MCW released a progress report on 1 September 2014 (MCW Progress Report), reviewing progress made in implementing the 40 recommendations included in the UK Report since its publication over two years ago. MCW concluded that only 5 per cent of the UK Report’s recommendations have been substantially implemented and that UNICEF’s assessment that “ill-treatment appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized” remains valid in late 2014. MCW noted that on a review of the most recent evidence of children detained in 2014:
  1. 44 per cent of children continue to report being detained at night;

  2. 67 per cent of summonses issued to children were served by the military after midnight;

  3. More children than last year report being tied and blindfolded upon arrest;

  4. More children than last year report being transported on the metal floor of vehicles; and

  5. More children than last year report being subjected to physical violence.

At the end August 2014, the delegation of lawyers who prepared the UK Report was booked to return to Israel/Palestine with a view to updating the UK Report and independently assessing progress made since June 2012. The return visit had to be postponed indefinitely due to the lack of availability of any officials in Israel 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.