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No Way To Treat A Child: Activists Call On Parliament To Protect Palestinian Children In Military Detention.

No way to treat a child: Human rights activists call on parliament to protect Palestinian children in military detention.

Wellington Palestine and Alternative Jewish Voices have delivered a petition to parliament calling on them to use all available means to protect the rights of Palestinian children in military detention.

On April 15, 2019 sixteen year old Samer was woken abruptly around 3 a.m. by a soldier standing in his bedroom, pressing his foot on his chest. A group of heavily armed Israeli soldiers had invaded the family home in Jenin, in the West Bank of Palestine. In an affidavit, collected by a human rights NGO, Samer gave an account of what happened that night.

The soldiers did not provide an arrest warrant or any reason for Samer’s arrest. Blindfolded, with his hands bound behind his back, he was forced onto the floor of a military jeep where he was continuously kicked and punched by the soldiers surrounding him.

Samer was transferred to an interrogation and detention centre and held in solitary confinement, in a tiny cell with a filthy mattress and a foul-smelling toilet. The glare of the 24-hour yellow lighting in his windowless cell, meant Samer could not tell day from night. Food was delivered through a slot in the door. The only person he saw during this period was his jailer taking him to interrogations.

In circumstances such as Samer’s, where the vast majority of trials and convictions are based on confessions, or incrimination by other detainees, ensuring that interrogations are not coercive is imperative.

Samer was interrogated repeatedly for two to three hours at a time, without the presence of a lawyer or family member. During each interrogation his hands and feet were tied to a low metal chair. The interrogator shouted, threw objects and slapped him. Ultimately, he confessed to multiple accusations against him, stating that he did so, “…because I was afraid that the interrogation would never end.” Sixteen year old Samer spent a total of 23 days in solitary confinement.

Samer is case number 87 identified in a report titled Isolated and alone: Palestinian children held in solitary confinement published by the human rights organisation Defence for Children International: Palestine (DCIP). The report carefully documents the circumstances of 108 children, aged between 14 and 17, who were arrested by the Israeli military and held in solitary confinement for the purposes of interrogation, intelligence gathering and the extraction of a confession: a practice that, in international law, amounts to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

All children and young people (under the age of 18) have the same basic human rights as adults. Children also have specific rights that recognise their special need for protection due to their vulnerability and formative stage of development. Children’s rights are enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child one of the most widely accepted human rights instruments in the world. It has been ratified by 196 countries, including New Zealand in 1993 and Israel in 1991.

The Convention sets out the basic human rights for all children, without exception. Article 37 concerns the arrest and detention of children. It asserts that no child should be subject to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It states that the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time; that every child detainee should be treated with humanity and respect and that detained children should have prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance.

Defence for Children: Palestine (DCIP), as part of their No Way to Treat a Child campaign, is calling on the international community to support 14 recommendations to ensure Israeli authorities respect basic due process rights and the absolute prohibition against torture and ill-treatment. Wellington Palestine and Alternative Jewish Voices recently submitted to parliament a petition signed by 2,500 New Zealanders calling on the New Zealand government to support the DCIP recommendations and to use all available means to pressure the Israeli government to end the detention and abuse of Palestinian children. The petition is now making its way to the Petitions Committee who will decide what action to take.

As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, in her address to the UN General Assembly, at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit in 2018, “We must not be silent in the face of intolerance, hate and discrimination. We must speak for those who do not have a voice. We must pursue equal rights for all.” Aotearoa New Zealand has a proud record as a moral actor on the international stage. Wellington Palestine and Alternative Jewish Voices urge parliament to continue this legacy by acting decisively to protect the rights of Palestinian children in military detention.


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