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The “unprecedented decline” in the state of Palestinian children’s rights

Jerusalem24 – Every 5 April marks Palestinian Child Day, and according to statistics collected by children’s institutes, the state of children’s rights in the Palestinian territories has been witnessing a sharp deterioration.

Defense for Children International–Palestine (DCIP) says that “Israeli occupation continue to systematically violate the fundamental rights of Palestinian children” in their report released ahead of Palestinian Child Day.

Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP, tells Jerusalem24 that the report highlights the reality of Palestinian children’s rights in the Palestinian territories through documentation collected on the ground.

“We found that all Palestinian children’s rights are violated by the Israeli occupation forces,” Abu Eqtaish asserts. “We believe that children’s rights are interconnected, so any violation of any of these rights is necessarily affecting the enjoyment of other Palestinian children’s rights.”

The report identifies violations across several main areas:

1. Military trials, arbitrary detention, and torture

According to DCIP documentation, almost all Palestinian children who are arrested and prosecuted by the Israeli army were exposed to different types of ill-treatment and torture. Abu Eqtaish says children experience various types of mistreatment and abuse, usually in the form of physical violence or psychological pressure, especially when they go through military interrogation.

But Abu Eqtaish believes “the [worst] ill-treatment they go through is solitary confinement.”

Last year, DCIP documented 24 cases of Palestinian children placed in solitary confinement, in 1 by 2 square meter cells, without any proper interaction with other human beings. “The goal is to extract confessions from them to be used in the military reports as primary evidence against the kids,” explains Abu Eqtaish.

In the last year, he says, around three-quarters of Palestinian children were exposed to physical violence during their arrest, transportation, and interrogation by Israeli forces.

“The Israeli court system is an arbitrary system,” says Abu Eqtaish. “Almost all Palestinian children who appear before a military court system will be indicted because it’s almost impossible for the lawyers to prove that the evidence was extracted [from them], since the children are interrogated without any guardian or representative.”

Every year Israeli forces detain between 500 and 700 children. As of 31 March, 151 Palestinian children are detained by Israeli authorities, most of them n the Damon and Ofer prisons. 19 of these children are under the age of 16, according to DCIP documentation.

Exacerbating the trauma, hundreds of Palestinian children are arrested every year by the Israeli army or police in the middle of the night without any warning, a practice which causes “long-term trauma for the whole family”, according to HaMoked director Jessica Montell.

2022 also witnessed a spike in the number of children placed under arbitrary detention orders without charge or trial (so-called administrative detention). Ten children are currently placed under arbitrary detention, including three children who received new orders the day their initial orders ended.

“According to the convention on the rights of the child, arresting children should be a last resort for a short period of time,” Abu Eqtaish reminds us. “There also should be alternatives to the arrest.”

2. Home demolitions

Between 1 January and 30 March, 194 children were displaced across the occupied West Bank including occupied East Jerusalem due to their homes being demolished by Israeli authorities.

Abu Eqtaish describes these demolitions “punitive demolitions” that amount to “collective punishment” on children and their families.

NGOs have also found that home demolitions are leaving Palestinian children with lifelong mental health issues.

3. Impunity for perpetrators of violence against children

17 Palestinian children have been shot and killed by Israeli fire in the occupied West Bank since the start of the year, most of them targeted in the upper body – which denotes an intention of shooting to kill, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

“The policy of impunity and lack of accountability enjoyed by the Israeli occupation soldiers, and their prior knowledge that they will not be held accountable for their actions whatever they may be, encourages them to continue their violations of the rights and escalation of Palestinian children,” says Abu Eqtaish.

“Especially under the current fascist Israeli government,” he adds, “whose ministers authorize the media to support settlers and occupation soldiers in their crimes against Palestinian civilians, including children.”

4. No guaranteed access to education

DCIP notes that the Israeli authorities, military and settlers are not the sole purveyors of violations of Palestinian children’s rights.

The report mentions that within the Palestinian Authority, the condition of the rights of the Palestinian child “has witnessed a noticeable decline” – most notably in education, according to DCIP, as children have “lost their right to education” due to a 60-day long strike that teachers have been waging.

“The matter reflects on the rights of children,” says Abu Eqtaish. “A large number of children went into the labor market, which constitutes a threat to their right to life, and increases the social risks due to their lack of education.”

Listen to the full interview on Wake Up Palestine.

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 6 years of experience in journalism. She currently works as a reporter, editor and presenter/producer for PBC-Palestine TV and Jerusalem24 radio. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna.

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