The Journal of History     Fall 2002  TABLE OF CONTENTS

Palestinian Child Prisoners

Provided by Abeer Dabas
Author unknown

Each year, hundreds of Palestinian children from the Occupied Palestinian Territories are arrested, interrogated, and imprisoned by the Israeli military authorities. Since 1992, Defense for Children International/Palestine Section (DCI/PS) has represented many of these children in Israeli military courts, monitored the conditions of their detention, and intervened with relevant institutions and government bodies in order to improve their situation.

What DCI/PS has witnessed repeatedly through their work with Palestinian child prisoners, and what has been confirmed by other human rights organizations working within the areas under Israeli occupation, are widespread and systematic violations of international law designed to safeguard the rights of children deprived of their liberty.

The Campaign to Free Palestinian Child Political Prisoners is part of DCI/PS's ongoing work to promote and protect the rights of Palestinian children.

The Campaign was launched due to the rapidly deteriorating situation for Palestinian children arrested, interrogated and detained by Israeli occupation forces. Increased violations in this area began well before the outbreak of the current Intifada in September 2000. As early as July 1999, there was documented evidence of increased violations of children's rights to due process and to adequate standards of detention.

In the period from 1998 to 2000, there was a 183% increase in the number of cases received by DCI/PS (89 in 1998 to 252 in 2000). In addition, there was a serious increase in the number of children arrested between the ages of 13 and 14. In 1999, arrested children aged 13 and 14 represented 9.90% of all DCI/PS cases. In the year 2000, that figure increased to 21.83%.

Moreover, there is a marked increase in the length of sentences received by Palestinian children. In 1999, the majority of cases (43.51%) received sentences of less than one month, with 30.53% receiving between 1 to 6 months. In 2000, however, the percentage of cases receiving less than one month decreased to 35.48%, while the number receiving between six months to one year increased from 19.08% to 40.3%, thus constituting the majority.

In addition, conditions of detention have steadily declined with an increased number of attacks on child prisoners by Israeli prison authorities, the virtual elimination of family visits as a result of the Israeli imposed closure on the occupied territories, and decreased access to child prisoners by Palestinian human rights attorneys.

A legal system is usually put in place to keep order in a society, to provide social cohesion through establishing a shared sense of justice among the society's members. It should also function as a preventive mechanism keeping in check those who would want to cause harm to others. In democratic societies, the laws are also meant to enforce the principles of equal rights, equal opportunity, as well as participatory and representative governance.

In Israel, the legal system, as it exists on paper and in practice, in addition to the occupation policies guiding the administration and control of the territories, however, all prove the contrary. While it may be based on the rule of law, it is not based on the rule of just laws. What the Israeli legal system actually provides is a justificatory framework through which an unjust rule is implemented.

The fiction of justice is maintained through bureaucratic procedures, judges, trials, signed documents, and confessions. But when confessions are extracted through torture, and when documents are signed but written in a language the signatory does not understand, the emptiness of this framework is manifest. When the bureaucratic procedures serve only to emphasize to the one being shunted through them that they are subject to the caprice and power of the state and its functionaries, and when the judges do not even pretend to be even-handed or offer objective consideration of cases before them, this farce of justice is written--from the beginning-- as tragedy.

The information provided on this website is based on DCI/PS's experience in working with Palestinian child prisoners. It is designed both to raise awareness of the issue as well as to mobilize people to engage in advocacy efforts designed to bring about Israel's compliance with international law.

"The arrest or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time..." Article 37,
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)

Petition to Free Palestinian Child Political Prisoners


To: Mrs. Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights


To: United Nations Human Rights Commission
Mrs. Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

WHEREAS the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Israel is a State Party, outlines in Article 37 that "detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.";

WHEREAS Article 37 of the CRC states that, "Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and a respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age.";

WHEREAS the CRC, the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and other international treaties explicitly forbid the use of torture during interrogation and incarceration;

AND WHEREAS as of 1 September 2001, over 600 Palestinian children had been arrested by the Israeli authorities since 28 September 2000 and around 160 remained incarcerated in Israeli jails. Moreover, almost all Palestinian child detainees face physical and psychological torture while under interrogation;

WE, the undersigned, call upon the United Nations Human Rights Commission to urgently press for the release of all Palestinian child political prisoners from Israeli prisons and an end to the practice of illegal arrests of Palestinian children.

FURTHERMORE, we call for an immediate inquiry into illegal Israeli practices towards Palestinian child detainees. This inquiry should focus upon the following; the use of torture during interrogation, denial of the right to education while in prison, denial of family and lawyer visits, and the incarceration of Palestinian child political prisoners alongside Israeli juvenile criminal prisoners.


The Undersigned

Editor's note: It should be clear to everyone who saw the baby in the Johnson & Johnson picture in the boycott against that multinational corporation, who was shot in the stomach, what the Israeli intentions are for children and infants. The Israeli government is purposefully alleviating the means by which the Palestinian population is able to procreate. This is especially true because women of child bearing age are being gunned down too.


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