UN report says Israel routinely abuses Palestinian minors

Foreign Ministry dismisses study as ‘Israel-bashing’ that only seeks to ‘make headlines’

Gavriel Fiske is a reporter at The Times of Israel

Illustrative photo of Israeli Border policemen pictured in Jerusalem's Old City amid clashes between Palestinian stone throwers and Israeli forces (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)
Illustrative photo of Israeli Border policemen pictured in Jerusalem's Old City amid clashes between Palestinian stone throwers and Israeli forces (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)

The Israeli military routinely mistreats Palestinian minors in the West Bank, according to a recently released UN report, which accused the IDF of torturing and denying basic human rights to children in military custody.

The accusations were dismissed by the Foreign Ministry, which said that it was not a serious investigative report and was carried out without the cooperation of Israel.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child report, released in advance copy last week and widely reported on Thursday, expressed “deepest concern about the reported practice of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian children arrested, prosecuted and detained by the military and the police” in the West Bank.

These minors, who are mostly detained for throwing stones, are “routinely arrested in the middle of the night by soldiers shouting instructions at the family, and taken hand-tied and blindfolded to an unknown destination without having the possibility to say good bye to their parents who rarely know where their children are taken,” according to the report.

They are then “systematically subject to physical and verbal violence, humiliation, painful restraints, hooding of the head and face in a sack, threatened with death, physical violence, and sexual assault against themselves or members of their family and restricted access to toilet, food and water,” the report said. According to soldiers’ testimony, minors detained for throwing stones, which can carry a 20-year sentence, are often brought in in an “arbitrary manner.”

The report accused the IDF of “the continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants” and alleged that soldiers “have used Palestinian children to enter potentially dangerous buildings ahead of them and to stand in front of military vehicles in order to stop the throwing of stones against those vehicles.”

Israel currently detains 236 Palestinian children for what it says are security reasons, including dozens between the ages of 12 and 15, according to the report.

The children “are systematically subject to degrading treatment” and are “brought in leg chains and shackles wearing prison uniforms before military courts where confessions obtained from them under duress are used as the main evidence,” the group, which acts under the aegis of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

The report noted the suffering of both Israeli and Palestinian children from the ongoing conflict, and expressed concern over the long-term effects of a “climate of violence.”

The committee accused Israel of “persistent refusal” to cooperate in their investigation by replying to written requests for information.

However, according to Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor, the report was “drafted without any consultation with us, without any investigative work on the ground and without seeking any input from Israel.”

“Obviously, this is not a report that seeks to improve values or improve conditions, and it is only out there to make noise, and we will treat it as such,” Palmor told The Times of Israel, noting that a March report by UNICEF covered the same issues and was prepared “in full cooperation” with Israeli authorities.

“Even though it contained strong criticism, as well as praise, we immediately embraced the UNICEF report,” Palmor said. “We were partners in writing the report.”

The new report, judging by the way the allegations are expressed, was clearly not prepared in good faith, Palmor added. “It is regrettable that a UN report serves as simple bashing… we are going to ignore this background noise, and continue working with serious organizations that seek to make actual improvements, and not those who just seek to make a headline and bash Israel,” he said.

The new UN report also included sections on other issues affecting children in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, including Palestinian family reunification issues, lack of educational opportunities for Israeli-Arabs, Bedouins, Ethiopians and others inside Israel, the challenges facing children of migrant workers and African refugees residing in the country, and issues relating to disabled children.

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