"Every Palestinian child is a potential terrorist"

by Luiz Eca

A delegation of nine eminent English lawyers, led by Sir Stephen Sadley, former judge of the highest court, concluded that undisputed facts showed that at least six times Israel violated the UN convention on the rights of children.

In addition, the group that included former Attorney General of the United Kingdom, Lady Scotland, found a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the transfer of Palestinian children arrested in the West Bank to Israel.

These findings are in the report "Children in Military Custody," based on observations taken on a visit to Israel and the West Bank in September.

The report compares the military justice system in the West Bank with the civil justice system in Israel. The differences between the treatment of Israeli and Palestinian children are shocking.

While imprisoned Israeli children are brought before a judge in the space of 48 hours, the term for Palestinians is eight days; 48 hours after Israeli children are imprisoned they can already have a lawyer. The Palestinians will wait 90 days.

Time to be detained without charge: 40 days for Israeli children and 188 days for the Palestinians. The minimum age for Israeli children being sentenced to prison is 14 years of age. Palestinian children can be sentenced to imprisonment from 12 years of age.

There is obvious discrimination. It is particularly sad that it is being imposed by a people who were discriminated against in Europe for centuries.

The British lawyers met with authorities of the Israeli government, lawyers, members of NGOs and UN agencies. They interviewed many former child prisoners and soldiers.

They visited military tribunals and the prison of Ofer, near Jerusalem, which often shelters arrested imprisoned children.

The report reveals that Palestinian children were arrested by soldiers at home during the night.  They were blindfolded and their wrists were tied.   They were then transported, face on the floor of the vehicle, to a military interrogation center.

Most of them suffered physical and / or verbal abuse and were not informed of their rights to a lawyer and to not answer questions. Sometimes, they were confined in solitary confinement and forced to sign statements in Hebrew that they did not understand. Once in custody, the children had limited access to education and very restricted access to their families.

According to the report: "Each year hundreds of Palestinian children are traumatized, sometimes irreversibly ... and live under constant risk of the harshest punishments in case of being arrested and taken prisoner again."

Keeping a child confined in solitary confinement for long periods of time is considered torture by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory.

The English lawyers joined the United Nations against Israel for committing this crime. One of those lawyers, Marianna Hildyard, told The Guardian that "Israel says it is a state committed to law and international principles. To give authenticity to this statement, they need to offer all Palestinian children legal support under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and international law. Urgent measures must be taken to close the gap between the treatment of Israeli children and Palestinian children."

The report "Children in Military Custody" concludes by making 40 recommendations to radically change the treatment of Palestinian children by Israel.

Referring to a recent report on the question of the NGO "Save the Children," the lawyer, Greg Davies, who wrote it said, "When you think of the trauma caused by being taken in the middle of the night and thrown into prison without anyone knowing where you are, it would be very difficult for a child not to suffer psychological damage."

Davies said that although members of his NGO had been in court a few hours, they watched the arrival of a Palestinian child chained by the feet. "What's amazing is that they (Israeli authorities) knew that we would be there that day."

Apparently the Israelis find their brutal treatment of Palestinian children legitimate .

As an Israeli military prosecutor observed to a group of lawyers: "Every Palestinian child is a potential terrorist."

It was more or less what the Nazis claimed when criticized for removing Jewish children at places like Dachau or Auschwitz.

Translated from the Portuguese version by:

Lisa Karpova


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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey