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Military Order includes protections for children during interrogation, doesn’t apply in majority of cases

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Ramallah, October 16, 2014­—Military Order 1745 came into effect on September 10, 2014, establishing specific requirements regarding audio-video recording and the language used during interrogations of Palestinian children by Israeli police in the occupied West Bank. While the new order appears to implement significant changes to procedures for interrogating Palestinian children, it’s utility is extremely limited because the order does not apply to children suspected of committing “security offenses” such as throwing stones.

Generally, the new order provides that interrogations by Israeli police involving a child must be conducted in the child’s own language, documented in writing in the language of the interrogation, and audio or video recorded where the interrogation is not being documented in the child’s own language, i.e., questioning in Arabic and a statement drafted in Hebrew. The order also requires video recording for offenses carrying a maximum sentence of more than 10 years.

Importantly, the utility of the new order is severely restricted because the provisions do not apply to a child suspected of committing a security offense as detailed in Military Order 1651, which nearly all children arrested by Israeli forces and interrogated by Israeli police are alleged to have committed.

“Military Order 1745 is the latest attempt by Israeli authorities to provide cosmetic legal improvements that in the end have zero practical impact,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCI-Palestine. “The new order details specific procedures for improving protections for children during interrogations, yet the provisions will rarely be implemented because the order exempts their applicability to interrogations where ill-treatment and due process violations occur in a widespread and systematic manner.”

Israel is the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes children in military courts. Palestinian children, some as young as 12 years old, are detained, interrogated and imprisoned within the Israeli military detention system.

Following the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israel declared martial law and empowered the military commander in the region with executive, judicial and legislative authority over the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Israeli military law, comprised of over 1700 military orders, fails to ensure and denies basic and fundamental rights to the Palestinian population and remains in effect today.

While Israeli military law applies to any individual located in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Israeli settlers living in the West Bank are subject to the Israeli civilian and criminal legal system.

Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces are most commonly charged with stone throwing, which is deemed a “security offense” under Israeli military law, specifically Military Order 1651.

In 23% of cases in 2013, children were either shown, or made to sign, documentation written in Hebrew, a language they do not understand, according to evidence collected by DCI-Palestine.

International juvenile justice standards, which Israel has obliged itself to implement by signing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, demand that children should only be deprived of their liberty as a measure of last resort.