[Ppnews] The plight of Palestinian child prisoners
Political Prisoner News
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Wed Dec 6 12:28:47 EST 2006
The plight of Palestinian child prisoners
Report, IRIN, 5 December 2006
Child prisoner Layth Ghaleb Bedwan, 14, from Azoun village in the
West Bank. (Naela Khalil/<http://www.irinnews.org>IRIN)
Palestinian Layth Ghalib Bedwan, 14, was arrested and detained by the
Israeli authorities on 28 August 2006. Since then, his family has
waited anxiously for him to return home.
"His mother is crying all the time. I contacted all the children's
rights organisations in the hope that they can do something to
accelerate the release of my son, but all my efforts were in vain,"
said Ghalib Bedwan, 36, Layth's father.
On 9 September, an Israeli military court accused Layth of throwing
stones at Israeli soldiers, sentencing him to three months in prison,
and imposing a US $400 fine on him.
"The occupation force stormed into our house at 2am in the morning on
28 August," his father said. "They were shouting and threatening to
use their guns. They asked me to get my son Layth, and soon after
they tied his hands, covered his eyes and put him in a military
vehicle and drove away."
Activists say the manner of the arrest and detention of children like
Layth contravenes international laws protecting children.
Iyad Misk is a lawyer for the NGO Defence for Children International
(DCI) in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT). He said
international law allows for the detention of children or adolescents
under 18, but under specific conditions.
"A specialised interrogator for children should interrogate them. The
interrogation should be filmed and the parents should attend to be
sure that the child was not subject to psychological pressure or
abuse," Misk said.
He added that minors should appear before a special tribunal for
children and only be detained in facilities dedicated exclusively for
them, never with adults.
"All these conditions are not provided to Palestinian children
detained by the Israeli authorities, although they do provide it for
Israeli child prisoners," Misk said, adding that Israeli authorities
try Palestinian children in military courts - another contravention
of international law.
Misk said Article 37 of the UN's Convention on the Rights of the
Child states that detaining children should be a measure of last
resort, and must be for the shortest possible period of time. Israel
signed this pact in 1990 but the NGO's lawyers say that it is only
being applied to Israeli children.
Israel denies claims
Orit Stelser, a spokeswoman for Israel's prison service, denied that
the conditions Palestinian child prisoners are held in, contravened
international law. "Of course they don't break the law. There are
lots of organisations, such as the Red Cross, who come to visit them
and who check their conditions," she said.
She added that all Palestinian children and youths were now being
held in separate blocks from their adult counterparts.
"About a month ago we took over Ofer Prison near Ramallah in the West
Bank from the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces]. So we have changed all
the rules there and the children are separated from the adults, and
the boys from the girls," Stelser said.
"These young Palestinian terrorists get visited by their families
twice a month - they have that right. Of course, we Israelis don't
get to visit our prisoners, like Gilad Shalit [a soldier captured by
Palestinian militants on 25 July] in Gaza, but we still guarantee the
Palestinians their rights," she said.
There has been a marked increase in the number of Palestinian
children detained in the West Bank since the start of the second
intifada in 2000, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation,
according to the Palestinian Ministry for Prisoners Affairs and the
NGO, Defence for Children International.
"Five thousand children have been either imprisoned or arrested in
Israeli investigation centres for different periods of time since the
start of the Intifada," said Dawood Dar'awi, head of the DCI office
in OPT, adding that they were being detained for participation or
"suspected participation" in intifada activities.
Dar'awi said 95 percent of detained children are from the West Bank
and the rest from the Gaza Strip. This is because Israel maintains
overall control over the West Bank and not the Strip, from where
Israel disengaged in July 2005.
A landlocked territory bordering Jordan and Israel, the West Bank is
home to 2.4 million Palestinian residents and some 400,000 Jewish
settlers. As such, Israeli soldiers regularly patrol the streets and
make arrests as they see fit.
The Palestinian Ministry for Prisoners' Affairs and children's rights
activists like the DCI, confirmed the presence of about 450
Palestinian children from the West Bank in Israeli prisons, including
three girls aged 15, 16 and 17. About 100 are ill, they said, three
of them suffering from gunshot wounds.
This item comes to you via <http://www.irinnews.org>IRIN, a UN
humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily
reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. All IRIN
material may be reposted or reprinted free-of-charge; refer to the
<http://www.irinnews.org/copyright.asp>copyright page for conditions
of use. IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of
<http://sumoud.tao.ca>Sumoud Political Prisoner Solidarity Group
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