SPECIAL REPORT: Release Palestinian Child Prisoners, UN Officials Tell Israel

UN officials call on Israel to release Palestinian child prisoners due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Infographic: The Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff

Several United Nations officials called on Israel Monday to release Palestinian child prisoners currently held in Israeli prisons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The call was made by the coordinator of UN’s humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians on the ground, Jamie McGoldrick, the head of the UN Human Rights Office in the West Bank, James Heenan, and UNICEF special representative, Genevieve Boutin.

“The rights of children to protection, safety, and wellbeing must be upheld at all times. In normal times, the arrest or detention of a child should be a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time,” the statement read.

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“During a pandemic, States should pay increased attention to children’s protection needs and children’s rights, and the best interests of children should be a primary consideration in all actions taken by Governments.”

Israel has been criticized repeatedly in the past for its arrest and trial in military courts of Palestinian children. Recent data released by the Israeli rights group B’tselem indicate that by the end of March, Israel was holding 194 Palestinian children.

While Israel has released hundreds of its own prisoners to control the spread of the COVID-19 disease in its overpopulated prisons, the same policy did not apply to Palestinian detainees. There are over 5,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, in addition to nearly 500 prisoners who are held without charge or trial.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis in Israel, legal proceedings are on hold, almost all prison visits are cancelled, and children are denied in-person access to their families and their lawyers. This creates additional hardship, psychological suffering, and prevents the child from receiving the legal advice to which they are entitled. ” the joint statement also read.

“For children awaiting trial, these pressures could put them under increased pressure to incriminate themselves, pleading guilty to be released faster.” 

Read the full statement below: 

In light of COVID-19 crisis, UN officials call for immediate release of all children in detention, including Palestinian children

Joint Press Statement from Jamie McGoldrick, Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), Genevieve Boutin, UNICEF Special Representative in State of Palestine, and James Heenan, Head of the UN Human Rights Office in the oPt

JERUSALEM, 11 May 2020 – We are seriously concerned over the continued detention of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities. At the end of March, 194 Palestinian children were detained by the Israeli authorities in prisons and detention centres, mainly in Israel, according to data released by the Israeli Prison Service. This is higher than the monthly average number of children detained in 2019. Of the total, the vast majority of these children have not been convicted of any offence but are being held in pre-trial detention.

The rights of children to protection, safety and wellbeing must be upheld at all times. In normal times, the arrest or detention of a child should be a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. This is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which both Israel and State of Palestine have ratified.

During a pandemic, States should pay increased attention to children’s protection needs and children’s rights, and the best interests of children should be a primary consideration in all actions taken by Governments.

Children in detention face heightened risk of contracting COVID-19, with physical distancing and other preventive measures often absent or difficult to achieve. Moreover, since the start of the COVID-19 crisis in Israel, legal proceedings are on hold, almost all prison visits are cancelled, and children are denied in-person access to their families and their lawyers. This creates additional hardship, psychological suffering, and prevents the child from receiving the legal advice to which they are entitled. For children awaiting trial, these pressures could put them under increased pressure to incriminate themselves, pleading guilty to be released faster.

The best way to uphold the rights of detained children amidst a dangerous pandemic, in any country, is to release them from detention and to put a moratorium on new admissions into detention facilities. We call on the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to do so immediately.

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(The Palestine Chronicle)

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1 Comment

  1. It’s horrific that the world has turned a blind eye concerning the plight of the Palestinians in such a pandemic. Aren’t they human beings just as the Israelis? Don’t they deserve sympathy n compassion? Their land has been stolen from them, families are destroyed, people tortured and killed for no reason, the daily struggle to survive… Still they are to be blamed for protesting against Israel! Where is Amnesty? What about human rights? Where is humanity?
    We live in a world full of prejudices and injustice .Israel need to be brought in front of International court of justice for crimes against humanity at various levels.

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