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Childhood is not a Privilege but a Right!

Childhood is not a Privilege but a Right!
31.12.2013

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) Notes with increasing alarm and condemnation Israel's failure to protect Palestinian children from direct and indirect torture and ill treatment

Torture Destroys Childhood, Families, Society

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With the Israeli Knesset's Public Petitions Committee (being held today)meeting on "Conditions of arrest and imprisonment of Palestinian youth in East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria (sic)" PCATI reminds Knesset Members and their constituents that torture and ill treatment are absolutely prohibited and that Israel's legislature must anchor this prohibition in its domestic law.

The Istanbul Protocol Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture Raises the following issues regarding torture and children which must be understood:
"Perpetrators [of torture] often attempt to justify their acts of torture and ill-treatment by the need to gather information…One of the central aims of torture is to reduce an individual to a position of extreme helplessness and distress … Thus, torture is a means of attacking an individual’s fundamental modes of psychological and social functioning. The torturer attempts to destroy a victim’s sense of being grounded in a family and society as a human being with dreams, hopes and aspirations for the future. In addition, torture can profoundly damage intimate relationships between spouses, parents, children, other family members and relationships between the victims and their communities (Para. 235)… Torture can impact a child directly or indirectly. The impact can be due to the child’s having been tortured or detained, the torture of parents or close family members or witnessing torture and violence. When individuals in a child’s environment are tortured, the torture will inevitably have an impact on the child, albeit indirect, because torture affects the entire family and community of torture victims… Adolescence is a turbulent developmental period. The effects of torture can vary widely. Torture experiences may cause profound personality changes in adolescents resulting in antisocial behaviour. Alternatively, the effects of torture on adolescents may be similar to those seen in younger children (Para. 310 &312)."

PCATI has received in its offices dozens of complaints of torture and ill treatment from children in the last 10 years. Currently PCATI is actively working on cases concerning children's complaints of torture and ill treatment at the hands of Israeli soldiers and interrogators.[*]

PCATI is gravely concerned by reports from NGOs such as Psychoactive, Military Court Watch, Breaking the Silence, DCI Palestine, the Israeli Public Defenders office, B'Tselem and other organizations in civil society, of torture and ill treatment of children which included caging prisoners in iron cages (including children), abusive interrogations, detentions and arrests.

PCATI emphasizes that failure to allow the arrested child or minor to full enjoyment of his or her rights, including the failure to allow for an attorney or accompanying adult at the time of arrest and interrogation places the child in a state of helplessness, distress and increases the pressure being applied to the child by the security forces in order to achieve a confession or information during the interrogation.

PCATI applauds the recently announced efforts of (Defense of Children International) DCI-Palestine and Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR) to initiate a "know your rights campaign". PCATI similarly points out that the threshold in which an act of abuse would be considered torture in the situation of an adult must be lowered when it comes to children. PCATI further emphasizes that children and adults have the right to rehabilitation and to have their complaints fully examined including by forensic experts as well as the right to be accompanied by a representative of their choosing when giving testimony to an Israeli investigator. PCATI continues to work to insure respect for these principles.

DCI-Palestine and LPHR Write:
"Israel is the only nation to automatically and systematically prosecute children in military courts that lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees. Around 500-700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12 years old, are arrested, detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military detention system each year. The majority of Palestinian child detainees arecharged with throwing stones, and 74 percent experience physical violence during arrest, transfer or interrogation, according to evidence collected by Defence for Children International Palestine. No Israeli children come into contact with the military court system."

PCATI reiterates that the right to be free from torture and ill treatment is absolute and calls on the Public Petitions Committee to demand that the right to be free from torture be anchored in Israeli domestic law and that it include specific provisions for the protection of all children who come into contact with any arm of Israel's security forces.

We wish the public a 2014 of peace and full enjoyment of human rights for all.

[*] This includes threats and acts of sexual violence.

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