Khaled Quzmar, DCIP general director, addresses the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Palestine in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo: European Parliament News screen capture)
Ramallah, November 17, 2016‚ÄĒDefense for Children International – Palestine urged the European Union, during a meeting on Thursday, to pressure Israeli authorities to end ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system.
Khaled Quzmar, the general director of DCIP, addressed the European Parliament‚Äôs Delegation for relations with Palestine in Brussels during a meeting on the plight of Palestinian child prisoners. Quzmar focused on the effects of escalating violence across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since October 2015, and the rapidly deteriorating situation facing Palestinian children living under prolonged Israeli military occupation. He called on members to hold Israeli authorities accountable to international law and end systemic impunity for grave violations against Palestinian children.
‚ÄúInternational juvenile justice norms demand detention only be used as a last resort and prioritizes rehabilitation and reintegration,‚ÄĚ said Quzmar, drawing attention to the rising numbers of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention and recent harsh Israeli laws¬†targeting Palestinian children in East Jerusalem. ‚ÄúThese increasingly harsh practices and laws prioritize the criminalization and punishment of children in complete disregard of international law.‚ÄĚ
Other speakers included Sahar Francis, general director of Addameer – Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, a local Palestinian human rights organization, and Simon Ingram, a representative from UNICEF‚Äôs Brussels office.
The European Parliament currently has 44 delegations that aim to promote the ‚Äúprinciples of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law‚ÄĚ in non-EU countries. The Delegation for relations with Palestine was established in 1993.
Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes between 500 and 700 children in military courts each year. A recent report released by DCIP in April found three out of four Palestinian children endured some form of physical violence following arrest, and 97 percent of children had no parent present during the interrogation or access to legal counsel.
Israel held 440 Palestinian children in custody at the end of February 2016, more than twice the monthly average since 2011 and the highest number at any given point since the Israel Prison Service began releasing data in 2008.
Israeli authorities have also renewed the use of administrative detention against Palestinian children. Since October 2015, DCIP has documented the use of administrative detention against 20 Palestinian children. Six of them remain in administrative detention, including one that has since turned 18 years old.
Administrative detention permits military commanders or government officials to incarcerate individuals without charge or trial, based on secret evidence.