OPT: DCI concerned by increase in arrests of West Bank children

[RAMALLAH, 17 January 2009] - DCI-Palestine is concerned by the recent increase in the number of children arrested by the Israeli authorities in the West Bank. DCI-Palestine lawyers have observed that the number of children brought to the Israeli Military Courts in pre-trial hearings in the first two weeks of January was twice as high as numbers in 2008.

In addition, during the first two week of January alone, DCI-Palestine's legal department received 10 new cases of children for legal representation in the Military Courts, whereas the monthly average is 10-15 new cases. Out of these 10 cases, eight children were arrested from the street and/or during demonstrations. DCI-Palestine has not yet been able to take statements from the children and is unable to confirm whether they were participating in these demonstrations.

DCI-Palestine is also deeply concerned by reports that hundreds of Palestinians, possibly including under-18s, have been arrested by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip in the course of Operation Cast Lead.

Following Israel's military offensive on Gaza and the ensuing bloodshed, a group of Palestinian human rights organisations working on prisoner issues decided to boycott the Israeli Military Courts. Palestinian lawyers from NGOs and the Palestinian Ministry of Detainees, as well as Arab Israeli lawyers working in the Israeli Military Courts organised intermittent strikes, including sit-ins outside the Courts and demonstrations. They also held a press conference on 10 January. These lawyers represent 95 per cent of all Palestinians detained by Israel.

As of 16 January, Palestinian Ministry of Health figures indicate that 1,155 Palestinians, including 370 children, have been killed since the start of Operation Cast Lead on 27 December 2008. According to the same source, 5,015 Palestinians have been injured, including 1,745 children.