A United Nations independent human rights expert today condemned Israel’s use of solitary confinement against Palestinian children, and urged the Israeli Government to treat such detainees in accordance with international human rights laws.
“Israel’s use of solitary confinement against children flagrantly violates international human rights standards,” the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, said in a news release.
“However, using solitary confinement as a punishment for Palestinian children who wish to peacefully protest their situation, including by commencing a hunger strike against conditions of detention, is an appalling abuse of child prisoners,” he added. “I again condemn Israel’s harsh arrest operations and procedures.”
Falk’s comments came in the wake of earlier concerns on the issue, raised today by the UN Special Committee on Israeli practices in the Occupied Territories, at the end of a fact-finding mission to Jordan, Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
“According to testimony received, Israel uses solitary confinement against 12 per cent of Palestinian child detainees,” the Special Committee’s Chairperson, Ambassador Palitha T.B. Kohona of Sri Lanka, said in a news release. “This is especially troubling when one considers that Israel arrests about 500 to 700 Palestinian children every year.”
The Special Committee also warned that a pattern of detaining and mistreating children “links to broader, longstanding concerns regarding Israel detention of Palestinians generally.”
“Witnesses informed the Committee that mistreatment of Palestinian children starts from the moment of detention,” Mr. Kohona said. “Large numbers are routinely detained. Children’s homes are surrounded by Israeli soldiers late at night, sound grenades are fired into the houses, doors are broken down, live shots are often fired; no warrant is presented. Children are tightly bound, blindfolded and forced into the backs of military vehicles.”
The Special Committee head said that parents are not allowed to accompany the detainees, and that family members are insulted, intimidated and at times physically assaulted. According to witnesses, the detention and transfer of children can last for hours, and can often include stops in Israeli settlements, Israeli checkpoints and police or military bases.
“This pattern of abuse by Israel is grave,” said Special Rapporteur Falk. “It is inhumane, cruel, degrading, and unlawful, and, most worryingly, it is likely to adversely affect the mental and physical health of underage detainees.”
The Special Rapporteur appealed to the Government of Israel to take urgent steps to bring their treatment of Palestinian children detainees into line with international human rights laws, in particular the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have.
In its preliminary observations in the wake of its fact-finding mission, the Special Committee drew attention to two further areas of immediate concern in the West bank, including East Jerusalem: the Israeli practice of demolishing Palestinian homes, and violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians.
The Special Committee also assessed the economic impact of the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip.
“These Israeli practices lead the Special Committee to one over-arching and deeply troubling conclusion,” Kohona said. “The mass imprisonment of Palestinians; the routine demolition of homes and the displacement of Palestinians; the widespread violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians; and the blockade and resultant reliance on illegal smuggling to survive; these practices amount to a strategy to either force the Palestinian people off their land or so severely marginalize them as to establish and maintain a system of permanent oppression.”
The Special Committee will present a mission report to the UN General Assembly in November, with its observations and recommendations to improve the human rights situation.
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not United Nations staff, nor are they paid for their work.