Palestinian children comprise over 50% of the population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Approximately 60% of children who are arrested in the West Bank and prosecuted in the Israeli Military Courts are represented by lawyers employed by Defence for Children International, Palestine Section (DCI).
DCI lawyers also provide a regular prison visiting service to Palestinian children. During these visits, statements are taken from them about their experiences in custody, particularly their experiences during interrogation.
The remaining 40% of Palestinian children who are arrested and prosecuted in the West Bank are represented by either privately paid Israeli or Palestinian lawyers or lawyers employed by other Palestinian non government organizations.
This report is based on approximately 200 cases conducted by DCI Palestine lawyers in the Israeli Military Courts during January to June 2007, and 30 statements taken from Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons and interrogation and detention centers, during the same period.
1) Palestinian Children in Israeli Custody
The arrest, interrogation and imprisonment of Palestinian children in the West Bank , by Israeli military forces, police officers and other Israeli security personnel, is not a new phenomenon. Israel has been continuously arresting and prosecuting children since its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967.
During the First Intifada, children were arrested and detained in mass numbers for stone throwing and other forms of political resistance. During the Second Intifada, Israel began to use administrative detention against Palestinian children and convicted and imprisoned children under the age of 14 years for periods of up to 6 months. According to the DCI Annual Report of 2002, these latter two detention patterns did not exist during the years of the First Intifada.
Over the years that have followed the Second Intifada, the arrest, interrogation and imprisonment of Palestinian children has become systematic, with monthly numbers of child prisoners averaging between 350 and 430 children. As at the end of July 2007, there were approximately 385 children in Israeli custody.
During the period January 2007 to June 2007, 47.1% of Palestinian children who appeared before the Israeli military courts were sentenced to terms of imprisonment of between 12 months and 3 years or more. 52.9% of children received sentences of imprisonment of up to 12 months. There were no children acquitted of formal charges.
The Israeli military system that governs the prosecution of Palestinian children in the West Bank is part of a wider military legal system that governs every aspect of a Palestinian resident's life.
At the centre of pre trial detention, prosecution and imprisonment is State approved and directed ill treatment and abuse, in many cases amounting to torture.