Jun. 21, 2013 (TSR) – A United Nations human rights body accused Israeli forces on Thursday of mistreating Palestinian children, including by torturing those in custody and using others as human shields.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank and blockaded Gaza Strip, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, are normally not allowed to have their birth registered, and are denied access to health care, decent schooling as well as safe drinking water.
“Palestinian children arrested by (Israeli) military and police are systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture, are interrogated in Hebrew, a language they did not understand, and sign confessions in Hebrew in order to be released,” it said in a report.
The UN committee also expressed regret over Israel’s “persistent refusal” to respond to requests for information on children in the Palestinian territories and occupied Golan Heights since the last review in 2002.
“Hundreds of Palestinian children have been killed and thousands injured over the reporting period as a result of Israel military operations, especially in Gaza where Israel proceeded to [conduct] air and naval strikes on densely populated areas with a significant presence of children, thus disregarding the principles of proportionality and distinction,” the report stated.
The UN report also stated that an estimated 7,000 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17, but some as young as nine, have been arrested, interrogated and detained over the past ten years.
Many are brought in leg chains and shackles before military courts, while youths are held in solitary confinement, sometimes for months, the report said.
It voiced deep concern at the “continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants”, saying 14 such cases had been reported between January 2010 and March 2013 alone.
Israeli soldiers had used Palestinian children to enter potentially dangerous buildings and forced them to stand in front of military vehicles to deter stone-throwing, it said.
“Almost all those using children as human shields and informants have remained unpunished and the soldiers convicted for having forced at gunpoint a nine-year-old child to search bags suspected of containing explosives only received a suspended sentence of three months and were demoted.”
Israel’s “illegal long-standing occupation” of Palestinian territory and the Golan Heights, continued expansion of “unlawful” settlements, construction of the separation fence into the West Bank, land confiscation and destruction of homes and livelihoods “constitute severe and continuous violations of the rights of Palestinian children and their families,” it said.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry reacted angrily to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child report, and described it as “recycled old stuff.”