Amman – UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk has warned the international community about the dire human rights situation of Palestinian children.
At the end of an eight-day visit to Cairo and Amman, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 said the “rapidly deteriorating human rights situation as a result of the prolonged Israeli occupation disproportionately affects children.”
“Since the year 2000, 1,335 Palestinian children have been killed as a result of Israeli military and settler presence in the occupied Palestinian territory. The arbitrary opening of fire by Israeli military against Palestinian children is appalling,” Falk said.
“The policies of land confiscation, expansion of settlements, home demolitions and forced displacement of families, revocation of residency permits and restrictions on freedom of movement continue to have a greater impact on children.”
“Children are particularly vulnerable to settlers’ violent attacks and harassment. In Gaza, the continued Israeli blockade has significantly affected the right of children to food, health and education. Psychological trauma from the Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009 continues to affect children more disproportionately.”
Falk added that Israel continues to arbitrarily arrest, detain and abuse children, noting that 226 children are currently in Israeli detention, including 45 who are between 12 and 15 years old.
“Children continue to be arrested at night, at checkpoints or off the street. Upon arrest, children and their families are seldom informed of the charges against them,” he said. “Arresting children for stone throwing, particularly in East Jerusalem, has been on the rise. Children report that they were blindfolded, beaten or kicked at the time of arrest and put at the back of a military vehicle where they were subject to further physical and psychological abuse on the way to the interrogation and detention center. It is noteworthy that the perpetrators of these violations against Palestinian children face no accountability for their actions.”
The Special Rapporteur said that, unlike Israeli juvenile offenders, Palestinian children are tried in the Juvenile Military Court.
“Palestinian children continue to be deprived of their right to education. Existing schools are massively inadequate for the growing needs of students,” he said. “The planning restrictions in place in the West Bank along with extreme difficulties that make it impossible to obtain permits to build new schools force the communities to build classrooms illegally and risk demolition.”
Falk cited figures indicating that there was a shortage of 40,000 classrooms at the beginning of 2010-2011 school year. He added that Bedouin herding families living in Area C of the West Bank and their children are particularly vulnerable to a range of violations by Israeli authorities.
The UN expert stressed that the international community “should spare no effort in compelling Israel to comply with its obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, end this prolonged and illegal occupation and fully respect the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.”
“My hope was to visit the occupied territory personally, to assess the human rights situation of the Palestinian population living under occupation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip,” he said.
“Since my appointment in May 2008, the Israeli authorities have prevented me from visiting the occupied Palestinian territory in violation of their obligations as a UN member state.”
Falk was also due to visit the Gaza Strip but had to cancel due to the security situation there. He noted plans to visit Gaza later this year. Falk thanked the governments of Egypt and Jordan for having welcomed his visit to the region.
“I was able to learn a great deal about the extraordinary transformations taking place across the Arab world, particularly in Egypt,” he said. “I found new hope for how these revolutionary processes may reverse longstanding paralysis and global inability to end the prolonged and illegal Israeli occupation, and to realize Palestinians’ human rights.”
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