You’ve likely never heard their names: Laith Kharma, Amal Nakhleh, Mohammad Mansour, Jihad Bani-Jaber. You’ll be appalled to read the accounts of their arrests and incarceration by Israeli authorities recorded in the recently released report by Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP).
Take, for example, then 17-year-old Laith. According to DCI-P’s May report, Arbitrary by Default: Palestinian Children in the Israeli Military Court System,
Early on the morning of September 20, 2017, around 2 a.m., Israeli soldiers entered Laith Karma’s home in Kafr Ein village, outside of Ramallah. Laith… was bound, blindfolded, and physically assaulted by Israeli forces. He was neither informed of the reason for his arrest nor presented with a warrant.
Over the next eleven hours, Laith was transferred to multiple locations, including a military checkpoint and an Israeli police station in an illegal settlement. “While inside the jeep, it felt like the trip took hours,” he later told Defense for Children International-Palestine.
Laith arrived at Israel’s Ofer military compound around 1 p.m. During interrogation, he was questioned about throwing stones, a “security offense” under Israeli military law. He denied the allegations. The interrogator printed out a statement in both Arabic and Hebrew and made him sign it….
On August 6, 2018… Israeli forces released Laith without explanation. He spent nearly 46 weeks in military detention and was never formally charged with a crime. This prolonged detention forced him to miss his final year of high school.
According to its website, DCIP “is an independent, local Palestinian child rights organization dedicated to defending and promoting the rights of children living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.” The NGO offers legal aid, documents violations of international law, and presses for greater protections for Palestinian children, defined in international law as those below the age of 18 years.
Each year, 500-700 Palestinian children face arrest and prosecution in Israel’s military detention and court system. According to a 2015 UNICEF report cited by DCIP, they suffer mistreatment that is “widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.”
DCIP’s 39-page, extensively-researched, thoroughly-footnoted report includes detailed descriptions of—and international laws and human rights conventions pertaining to—Israeli military detention, the military court system, military orders related to the arrest, detention and incarceration of children. The report ends by listing measures DCIP strongly urges upon the government of Israel, the State of Palestine and the international community.
International legal protections relating to juvenile justice are chiefly contained in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)—“the most widely ratified international human rights treaty in history,” says DCIP. “Israel ratified the CRC in 1991,” DCIP reports, “obligating itself to implement the full range of rights and protections included in the convention.” However, DCIP reveals, “In July 2013… the Committee on the Rights of the Child last reviewed Israel’s compliance with the CRC and found the situation was even worse… that Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces were ‘systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture’ and that Israel had ‘fully disregarded’ previous recommendations to comply with international law.”
Arbitrary by Default relies on the testimonies of 766 children detained by the Israeli military or police in the occupied West Bank between January 2016 and December 2022. The age ranges and numbers of the 766 children:
- 0 – 11 years, 3;
- 12 – 13 years, 21;
- 14 – 15 years, 198;
- 16 – 17 years, 544.
The children’s affidavits—gathered by DCIP lawyers and field researchers in accordance with UN standards—show “three-quarters of the 766 children endured some form of physical violence following arrest. 97 percent of the children had no parent present during interrogation, and two thirds were not properly informed of their rights. Israeli forces did not inform the children of the reason for their arrest in 85.5 percent of the cases.”
Maltreatment of children detainees, the report cites, include night arrests, bound hands, blindfolding, physical violence, transfer on vehicle floor, verbal abuse, humiliation and intimidation, denial of food and water, denial of access to a toilet, strip searches, threats of sexual assault, no family member present during interrogation, and more.
Maltreatment of children detainees, the report cites, include night arrests, bound hands, blindfolding, physical violence, transfer on vehicle floor, verbal abuse, humiliation and intimidation, denial of food and water, denial of access to a toilet, strip searches, threats of sexual assault, no family member present during interrogation, and more. According to DCIP, “178 Palestinian boys [were] held in solitary confinement, for an average period of 16.5 days, during the reporting period.”
Readers will recall Mondoweiss’s report on the resolution that U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum reintroduced earlier this year. The legislation would prohibit Israel from spending U.S. taxpayer dollars for, among other things, the military detention, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention. DCIP’s report and its stories of Palestinian children detained and abused by Israel should move more elected representatives to support the bill.
For example, the ongoing story of Jihad Bani-Jaber, as shared in the DCIP report.
Israeli authorities are arbitrarily detaining a 16-year-old Palestinian boy by denying his release from Israeli custody after he completed a custodial sentence in September 2022.
Heavily-armed Israeli forces arrested Jihad Maher Nafez Bani-Jaber, 16, around 3 a.m. on May 3, 2022, from his home in Aqraba, near Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank. Jihad was held in isolation for interrogation purposes for 13 days….
While [in the detention center], Jihad was interrogated several times and was not allowed to consult with a lawyer or have a lawyer present. Israeli military authorities extended his detention up to eight separate times before a charge sheet was issued against him on May 31, 2022 in Israel’s Salem military court.
Jihad was accused of not sharing information with Israeli authorities and agreed to a plea agreement for a four-month sentence, including time spent in isolation and pre-trial detention….
After completing the four-month sentence, instead of being released from Israeli custody, Israel’s Vice Military Commander for the West Bank issued a four-month administrative detention order against him on September 1, 2022. At the end of 2022, Israeli authorities renewed his administrative detention for another four months. On April 30, 2023, his administrative detention was renewed again for another four months. Jihad remains arbitrarily detained by Israeli authorities at least through August 30, 2023, when the latest order expires.
Read the full report, Arbitrary by Default: Palestinian Children in the Israeli Military Court System, here.