Posted by Hunter Headapohl on June 05, 2015 in Blog

Pal_child_IDF.jpgOn the Hill Monday, Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) introduced staff members from Defense for Children International – Palestine, the American Friends Service Committee, and the Human Rights Watch to shed light on reports of widespread violence and abuse against Palestinian children by Israeli forces in the military court’s detention system. Brad Parker, a human rights attorney at Defense for Children International Palestine, laid out shocking arrest statistics that detail the inner workings of the Israeli military courts system in the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel is currently the only country that automatically and systemically prosecutes children in military courts, and approximately 500-700 Palestinian children are convicted in these courts annually.

In a video presented during the panel four young Palestinian boys gave accounts of being taken in the night, beaten, and forced to confess to crimes they did not commit under severe psychological duress. A Palestinian American on the panel, Tariq Abu Khdeir, told his own story about being beaten and illegally detained without charges by the Israeli Military during a visit to Palestine in 2014. He describes being bound and beaten unconscious, before being detained without charges for days until the State Department was able to negotiate his release.

Many of these children describe their arrests as raid-style: they are taken from their homes, beaten and/or bound, and taken to an unknown location. Their interrogations are focused on getting a confession by any means, including solitary confinement, physical violence, and threats to their families. These children also do not receive legal council, and often give false confessions to end their detention.

What is most shocking about these allegations is not the Israeli military’s violent tactics in occupying the West Bank—this is hardly a new phenomenon—but the panelists’ believe that these courts are specifically designed to deprive children of their basic rights guaranteed by the UN and international norms and place them in a traumatic environment. Panelist Suha Abu Khdeir also claimed that a lack of congressional leadership on this issue delayed Tariq’s release despite the State Department’s rapid response. Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN) circulated a letter at the meeting addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry outlining the issue and calling for diplomatic action from the State Department. It is important that there are assurances from the White House and the State Department that U.S. assistance to Israel does not subsidize military tribunals that violate international human rights laws and norms and specifically target children.