CRC anniversary attests to child rights deterioration in oPt

[RAMALLAH, 20 November 2008] - Today, DCI-Palestine is marking the 19th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), ratified by Israel in 1991 and endorsed by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in 1995.

Despite these commitments, Palestinian children's rights continue to be violated on a daily basis in the midst of the conflict with Israel and the internal fighting dividing Palestinians in the occupied territory, through the ugly innards of the Israeli occupation apparatus, and as a result of the many shortcomings of the Palestinian child protection system.

This year, from 27 February to 3 March 2008, the Israeli military operation codenamed 'Operation Warm Winter' brought untold destruction and devastation to the Gaza Strip. During these few days, Israeli air strikes and ground military operations caused the deaths of approximately 117 Palestinians, including 33 children. Seven of these children were killed while inside their homes, including a six-month-old baby. In addition, over 200 people were injured, a quarter of whom were children.

According to DCI-Palestine's documentation, at least 101 Palestinian children were killed in the course of the conflict since the beginning of 2008 - 87% were killed by the Israeli army and 13% by Palestinian armed groups, in internal fighting or through misuse of weapons and explosives. OCHA reported this month that over 450 Palestinian children had been injured in the conflict so far in 2008. These constitute grave violations of children's rights to survival and development, one of four guiding principles of the UNCRC.

This year, as in previous years, hundreds of Palestinian children have been arrested and detained by the Israeli authorities, and 297 are currently imprisoned by Israel for alleged 'security offences', including six girls. These 'security offences' include throwing stones at the Wall.

Among the detained girls are two 16-year-olds, Salwa and Sara. They were arrested on 5 June 2008 for alleged involvement in militant activities but have never been charged. They were issued with administrative detention orders and were due to be released on 4 October. However, on 5 October, both girls were issued with a second administrative detention order, and on 6 October, their appeal was rejected. Salwa and Sara will continue to be detained without charge or trial, nor with any evidence produced against them, until at least 3 January 2009. It is the first time that two girls have been held for such a period of time by Israel in administrative detention, and international appeals sent by the World Organisation Against Torture have fallen on deaf ears.

This year, from January onwards, the Gaza Strip has been subjected to a continuous, and on occasion total, blockade severely restricting electricity and fuel supplies, as well as the movement of people and goods in and out of the Strip, including crucial humanitarian aid. DCI-Palestine is deeply concerned that the blockade was tightened even further during the past two weeks, in disregard of calls and condemnations by the international community, including by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The continuous Israeli-imposed closure stops the flow of essential goods into Gaza and constitutes a method of collective punishment against the population, particularly children who constitute 56% of the population. Amid shortages of food, fuel, and electricity, the lives of children are constantly threatened - most of all, those children in hospitals who depend on life support equipment. The ongoing blockade has had a devastating impact on an area where some 85% of the population is dependent on food aid. It has also significantly increased the levels of poverty and unemployment in Gaza, the consequences of which affect children more than adults, owing to their vulnerability to malnutrition and disease.

These violations, among many others, are not only ongoing and systematic, but will have long-term effects on Palestinian children and Palestinian society at large. On the 19th anniversary of the Convention, the child protection standards enshrined in the UNCRC still seem years away from being a reality in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Today, DCI-Palestine is launching a new campaign to mobilise individuals, professionals and civil society organisations around the world to put an end to the arbitrary detention and abuse of Palestinian children by Israel. The Freedom Now campaign will support a focus on detention and torture in DCI-Palestine's advocacy work over the next year. It also allows anyone concerned by the plight of Palestinian child detainees to take simple and immediate action to hold those responsible for violations of the Convention accountable and to seek compliance by Israel with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention Against Torture. Please visit our website for more information and to take immediate action.

On Universal Children's Day:

- We call on the international community and each individual concerned about Palestinian children's rights to place pressure on Israel to adhere to the international treaties to which it is a State Party and cease its violations of Palestinian children's rights.

- We ask State Parties to the Convention to abide by their own commitments and work towards the full protection of all children worldwide - without discrimination.

- We call upon the Israeli government to abide by international law and the standards of the Convention, and end its various abuses of Palestinian children and their rights.

- We call upon the Palestinian National Authority to ensure children's protection and take appropriate measures towards effective domestic implementation of the Convention.