Caabu has welcomed the announcement that Israel will class all Palestinians aged under-18 as minors, but urges further action to protect children from abuse.
At present Israel’s military court system classifies Palestinians in the Occupied Territories as an adult from the age of 16, two years below international norms.
However, following an extensive lobbying campaign by a number of human rights organisations, including Caabu, the Israeli military has announced it will treat 16 and 17 year olds as children.
Caabu’s Parliamentary Officer, Graham Bambrough, cautiously welcomed the announcement, but said that the Israeli military must go further:
“Caabu is pleased that the Israeli military has committed to bring to an end the gross injustice that sees Palestinian children aged 16 and 17 tried as adults, in contravention of international law. However, the entire military justice system remains stacked against the Palestinians brought before it, especially children. Trials are conducted in Hebrew, confessions that are later retracted remain common place and allegations of abuse are rife. Sadly it is still the case that many children will meet their lawyer for the first time in the court room.”
“In particular, the Israeli military must commit to the video recording of all interrogations of children and to end the practices of cuffing minors with painful plastic tags for prolonged periods of time, as well as the degrading shackling of children in court.”
Caabu has taken four parliamentary delegations to visit the military courts in the past ten months. Delegates have included Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats Rt Hon Simon Hughes MP, former Minister for the Middle East Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP and former Director for Public Prosecutions Lord Ken MacDonald.
The issue has been extensively debated in the House of Commons and House of Lords, and raised in detail with both the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israeli embassy in London.
1. For further comment or information contact Graham Bambrough via [email protected] or 0207 832 1322
2. At present, whilst all Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are subject to military law, Israeli minors in settlements live under Israel’s civil code. Palestinian children are classified as adults from 16, while for Israeli children the age is 18. Palestinian children in the West Bank are tried in a military court, Israelis in a civilian one. An Israeli child has to see a judge within 24 hours of arrest; a Palestinian within eight days. An Israeli minor can be held on remand for 15 days, a Palestinian three months. In Israel there are severe limitations as to when a child can be handcuffed, but there are no such protections for Palestinians. What’s more a Palestinian child's sentence is decided on the basis of their age at the time of sentencing, and not at the time when the alleged offence was committed.
3. Israel arrests and prosecutes 700 children per year and since 2000 over 7,000 Palestinian minors have been prosecuted in military courts.
4. Further information on the treatment of children in the military court system can be found in Caabu’s new report Britain and Palestine: A parliamentary focus - http://www.caabu.org/sites/default/files/resources/Caabu-parliamentary-focus-palestine.pdf