Saturday 21 October 2017

Report puts Israel in dock over child 'torture' terror

Terri Judd in Tel Aviv

A major diplomatic row has broken out over a challenge to Israelis over their treatment of Palestinian children after a report by lawyers revealed unconscionable practices, such as hooding and the use of leg irons.

In the first investigation of its kind, a team of nine senior legal figures examined how Palestinians as young as 12 were treated when arrested. Their shocking report, 'Children in Military Custody', details claims that youngsters are dragged from their beds in the middle of the night, have their wrists bound behind their backs, and are blindfolded and made to kneel or lie face down in military vehicles.

The Foreign Office in Britain last night said they would be raising the matter with Israel.

Children from the West Bank are held in conditions that could amount to torture, such as solitary confinement, and with little or no access to their parents. They can be forced to stay awake before being verbally as well as physically abused, and coerced into signing confessions they cannot read.

The team -- led by Sir Stephen Sedley, a former Court of Appeal judge -- heard that "every Palestinian child is treated like a potential terrorist". In a damning conclusion, the report points out repeated breaches of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

"We were sitting in court and saw a section of a preliminary hearing, when a very young looking child, a boy, was brought in wearing a brown uniform with leg irons on. We were shocked by that. This was a situation where we had been invited into the military courts for briefings from senior judges," explained one of the report's authors, human rights barrister Greg Davies.

"To hold children routinely and for substantial periods in solitary confinement would, if it occurred, be capable of amounting to torture," the report said.

Last night the Foreign Office, which backed the report, said it would be taking up the claims with the Israeli authorities.

"The UK government has had long-standing concerns about the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli detention, and, as a result, decided to fund this independent report. While recognising that some positive recent steps have been made by the Israeli authorities, we share many of the report's concerns, and will continue to lobby for further improvements."

Last night, Israeli Embassy spokesman Amir Ofek said the country appreciated the delegation's efforts, but blamed Palestinians who "glorify terrorism". (© Independent News Service)

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