The imprisonment of Palestinian children is a common feature of Israel's occupation of the West Bank. Defence for Children International (DCI) estimates that since 2000 around 7,500 Palestinian children have been prosecuted by Israeli military courts. Many expected the 164 children (aged 12-17) being held by Israel to be among the 1,000+ Palestinians released in exchange for Gilad Shalit; they weren't. Most (62%) have been detained for "stone throwing".
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: "In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration."
Article 37(b) of the convention adds: "The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child... shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time."
The Israeli authorities continue to arrest and detain Palestinian children, often limiting access to families and lawyers. Confessions are extracted in Hebrew in a majority of cases and, DCI reports, in 95% of cases children plead guilty whether the offence has been committed or not.
The rights of child prisoners
Despite the protection of children's rights by the UN, when arrested Palestinian children find their rights to safety and protection ignored by the Israeli authorities.
A child's rights include the right not to be subject to indiscriminate arrest, the right to know the reason for arrest and detention, the right to legal counsel, as well as the right to contact family members, amongst others.
A majority of the children arrested originate from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with most held at the Hasharon Prison.
The ill-treatment of the child often begins at the moment of arrest, which often happens in a night time raid, with the child being removed from the family home with no knowledge of where they are going; the families are not told.
The child is questioned at an interrogation centre, alone and without access to family or legal representation.
Interrogation continues to be particularly arduous with threats of intimidation and physical violence; "confessions" are given to the child to sign. Many of these "confessions" are written in Hebrew, which few Palestinian children can read.
Detention and treatment
The majority of Palestinian children detained by the Israeli authorities are held in Israel in contravention of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which forbids the transfer of prisoners from the occupied territories.
The prisons and detention centres where Palestinian children are held often fail to meet the international standards of children's rights and more generally the rights of prisoners.
The detention facilities are particularly overcrowded, sometimes with little ventilation and reports of poor hygiene and insect infestation.
Reports have claimed that the children also face a lack of adequate food, drink and medical attention.
Reports of physical, verbal and, on occasion, sexual abuse of Palestinian children have surfaced. From their arrest the children are intimidated by threats of and actual abuse.
During detention children are often exposed to sleep deprivation, extreme heat or cold, and denial of access to toilets and washing facilities.
The Public Committee against Torture reported that, "Out of a sample of 100 sworn affidavits collected by lawyers from these children in 2009, 69% of the children reported being beaten and kicked, 49% reported being threatened, 14% were held in solitary confinement, 12% were threatened with sexual abuse including rape and 32% were forced to sign confessions in Hebrew."
All Palestinian children are "tried" by military courts in the occupied West Bank, which do not have any obligation to follow Israeli legal requirements, let alone international legal obligations.
During military trials, the court proceedings are overseen by Israeli occupation forces but are not recorded.