- by: John Lyons, Middle East correspondent
- From:The Australian
- July 28, 201212:00AM
AUSTRALIA has formally raised concerns with Israel about the detention of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons.
This follows an article in The Weekend Australian Magazine last November detailing the operations of Israel’s military court, which imprisons Palestinian children as young as 12.
Following that report, then foreign minister Kevin Rudd instructed officials to visit the court, which they have since done twice.
This week a spokesman for his successor, Bob Carr, said officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had met Israel’s chief military prosecutor.
“DFAT officials raised concerns about the detention of Palestinian children in Israeli jails, and have continued to urge Israel to protect human rights and the welfare of children,” he said.
Two legal systems operate in the West Bank, where 2.5 million Palestinians live under Israeli military occupation.
Children of Jewish settlers are tried before civilian courts while Palestinian children are tried before military tribunals; an Israeli child cannot be sent to prison until 14 while Palestinian children are jailed from 12.
For Israeli children the maximum period of detention without access to a lawyer is 48 hours; for Palestinians it is 90 days.
In Israel a child cannot be taken away at night or interrogated without a parent, but Palestinian children can.
Since 2007, Defence of Children International has collected 385 affidavits from Palestinian children who say they have suffered electric shocks, beatings, threats of rape, being stripped naked, solitary confinement, threats that their families’ work permits would be revoked and “position abuse”, where a detainee is placed in a chair with their feet shackled and hands tied behind their back, sometimes for hours.
One worker said a boy was placed on the floor of an army Jeep and each time he moved dogs bit him; one boy, 7, said he was hit during interrogation; one boy said he was kept in solitary confinement for 65 days; some boys said they were kept in solitary confinement with the lights on 24 hours a day; three boys said they were given electric shocks and DCI said one Israeli interrogator “specialises in threatening children with rape” if they do not confess.
Most of the children before the tribunal are charged with throwing stones.
At the time, Israel said it was engaged in “slow reform and improvement”.
A delegation of British lawyers, funded by the Foreign Office and including former attorney-general Patricia Scotland QC, has reported that “legal differentials” between Palestinian and Israeli children are a matter of record.
It found several breaches by Israel of the Geneva Convention and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. “Israel should not discriminate between those children over whom it exercises penal jurisdiction,” it said.
The issue is being debated in the British Jewish community. Britain’s Jewish Chronicle said the delegation’s report “will be deeply damaging to Israel”.
Senator Carr’s office said Australia was working with UNICEF and DCI