New York, January 26, 2017—Canadian parliamentarian Hélène Laverdière on Monday called on the government to press Israel to comply with international law in its treatment of Palestinian child detainees.
MP Laverdière in a letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland expressed concern for 16-year-old Palestinian child detainee Ahed Tamimi, “one of many troubling cases of military detention of children under the Israeli occupation.” The teen was put in pretrial detention after hitting armed and protected Israeli soldiers last month. She potentially faces ten years in military prison.
In the letter, Laverdière noted the widespread and systematic ill-treatment Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces encounter in the Israeli military detention system. The letter demands that the Israeli government “uphold its obligations under the [United Nations] Convention on the Rights of the Child,” and urged Minister Freeland to press the Israeli government to “fully comply” with international law.
“MP Laverdière joins an increasing number of lawmakers across the globe that understand the failure to demand human rights, justice and equality for Palestinian children perpetuates injustice and now 50-year military occupation with no end in sight,” said Brad Parker, attorney and international advocacy officer at Defense for Children International – Palestine. “Constituents’ mounting calls for justice and accountability are beginning to resonate with policy makers as Israeli forces perpetrate grave violations against Palestinian children with near complete impunity.”
Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes an estimated 500 to 700 children each year in military courts lacking fundamental fair trial rights. Children within the Israeli military system commonly report physical and verbal abuse from the moment of their arrest, and coercion and threats during interrogations.
Israel in 1991 ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires that children should only be deprived of their liberty as a measure of last resort, must not be unlawfully or arbitrarily detained, and must not be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
MP Laverdière’s letter came after Canadian citizens wrote requesting action from the Canadian government over Israel’s detention of Ahed. The 16-year-old hit and kicked two Israeli soldiers outside of her home in the occupied West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on December 15 and was detained four days later. She faces charges under Israeli military of assault, incitement, and stone-throwing,
Ahed’s arrest occurred following an incident where Israeli forces shot her cousin Mohammad, 15, in the face from close range with a rubber-coated metal bullet. A member of her extended family, 16-year-old Musab, was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers weeks later in a neighboring town. He was one of three Palestinian children to be killed since the start of 2018.
Despite sustained engagement by UNICEF and repeated calls to end night arrests and ill treatment and torture of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention, Israeli authorities have persistently failed to implement practical changes to stop violence against child detainees.
Reforms undertaken by Israeli military authorities so far have tended to be cosmetic in nature rather than substantively addressing physical violence and torture by Israeli military and police forces.