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Freedom Now: Campaign to Release Palestinian Child Prisoners

1. What is The Campaign to Free Palestinian Child Political Prisoners ?

The Campaign to Free Palestinian Child Political Prisoners began on 1 September 2001 with the launch of the Campaign website and the publication of a series of eight fact sheets and a poster [PDF Format 261KB]. The overall aim of the campaign is to obtain the release of Palestinian child prisoners. In addition, six other intermediate goals have been identified:

•  Protect Palestinian child prisoners from physical and mental violence.

•  Improve Palestinian children's conditions of detention in Israeli prisons.

•  Enforce Palestinian children's rights to adequate legal defence and family visits.

•  Provide Palestinian child detainees with the right to education.

•  Force Israel to abide by international law.

•  Halt the process of child arrests by Israeli forces.

2. How Can You Help?

The Campaign is coordinated on a local level by DCI/PS. On the international level, DCI/PS is looking for volunteer individuals and organizations to help with the following:

•  Translation of Campaign materials into other languages.

•  Media Contact People who will seek to make contacts with media outlets in their home countries in order to promote the Campaign and the situation of Palestinian child prisoners.

•  Organization of press conferences and other public activities in coordination with DCI/PS.

•  Distribution of Campaign materials, petition and posters on an international level.

•  Participation in fact-finding missions to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

•  Adopt-a-prisoner: Choose a long-term child prisoner to campaign for and support.

•  Write to Israeli officials and lawmakers to express your disgust at rights violations against Palestinian children in general, or specific children (see Case Studies in Monthly Prisoner's Briefings)

•  Contribute to DCI's legal defence of child detainees or to individuals and their families, write for details to info@dci-pal.org.

If you or your organization is willing to help with the campaign, please contact info@dci-pal.org

3. Talking Points

How many Palestinian Children Are Currently in Detention?

There are currently around 350 Palestinian children in Israeli prisons. Since the end of September 2000, ie the start of the current Intifada, over 2,000 Palestinian children have been arrested by Israeli police, soldiers or undercover units.

Campaign Factsheet: Palestinian Child Prisoners - Justice Denied [PDF Format 123KB]

Why Are Palestinian Children Arrested?

There are four main reasons why Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli forces:

•  To threaten and intimidate those who are active against the Israeli occupation. Since Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in 1967, the Palestinian population in these areas has struggled against this occupation. By conducting widespread arrests, imposing harsh punishments and maltreating prisoners, Israel is attempting to discourage Palestinians from engaging in struggle against the occupation. This political intent of arrests is indicated by the fact that length of sentencing, and the general manner in which children are treated in detention, depends mostly on the political situation not upon objective standards.

•  To obtain confessions which incriminate others. It is clear from DCI/PS documentation that a large number of children are forced to sign confessions that they cannot read (as they are written in Hebrew, a language Palestinian children do not understand). These confessions are also extracted under conditions of torture and maltreatment. In 1981, Israel implemented a Military Order that allows for the conviction of someone based solely on the evidence of another person. Thus, a major goal of arresting children is to obtain names and information about other people who can then be arrested.

•  To hold children as "bargaining chips" with the aim of pressuring the population as a whole. When children are arrested it is not only the detainees themselves who are punished but their parents and families as well. Family members are often prevented from visiting their children in prison for long periods of time and in cases where children are sentenced to pay a monetary fine, this cost - often running into hundreds of dollars - is borne by the parents of the child. It should be remembered that currently 64% of Palestinians live below the poverty line of US$2.10/day.

•  To recruit future "collaborators" with the Israeli occupation forces. One of the most insidious practices of the Israeli detention system is the use of threats to force children to work as informers for the Israeli Occupation Authorities once they are released from prison. Thus, children are told that they will not be released or they will be killed unless they agree to work as collaborators.

Campaign Factsheet: Arrest, Interrogation, and Incarceration - Structures and Strategies [PDF Format 134KB]

What Happens to Palestinian Children After They Are Arrested?

Palestinian children are taken to Israeli Detention Centers or an Israeli Military Camp where they may be held for up to 8 days without access to a lawyer or their families. Almost all children are tortured in these centers and this practice is condoned by the Israeli state and legal system. Forms of torture vary, but the most common methods include beatings, verbal threats and abuse, being doused repeatedly with hot and cold water, sleep deprivation, and being forced to sit or stand in contorted and uncomfortable positions for long periods of time. Most children will be placed in isolation cells - tiny, dirty rooms with very little light and no human contact.

Campaign Factsheet: In the Name of "Security" - Torture of Palestinian Child Political Detainees [PDF Format 365KB]

Where Are Palestinian Children Imprisoned?

After sentencing, Palestinian children are imprisoned in one of three prisons inside Israel . These are: Telmond Prison for boys under the age of 16, Megiddo Prison for boys aged 16 and over, and Ramle Prison for girl detainees.

Campaign Factsheet: Israel's Prisons - Institutionalized Abuse [PDF Format 223KB]

How Are Palestinian Children in Detention Discriminated Against?

In contrast to Israeli prisoners, Palestinian children face systematic discrimination inside Israeli prisons. Firstly, Israeli juveniles are treated in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that states that detention and sentencing should be carried out with the "best interests of the child" in mind. Thus, Israeli children face detention as a last resort and most often are given monetary fines or offered other forms of rehabilitation in special juvenile homes.

Israeli children do not face the systematic use of torture that Palestinian children experience. Palestinian children are often denied family visits (since parents live in the West Bank and Gaza and rarely get permits to enter Israel ) whereas this never happens to Israeli children. With regards to education, Israeli juvenile detainees are allowed to continue their education inside prison, however Palestinian children are frequently denied this right.

Palestinian children often face mistreatment inside prisons at the hands of the Prison Guards and are denied adequate health care. Moreover, some Palestinian children are incarcerated with Israeli juvenile criminal prisoners in contravention of international law. These children have faced regular harassment including beating, theft of personal belongings, cutting by razors and even attempted rape with no action taken by the Israeli Prison Administration.

Campaign Factsheet: Israeli Prison Education: Learning the Lessons of Institutionalized Racism [PDF Format 128KB]

Campaign Factsheet: Military Courts and Orders - A Maze of Injustice [PDF Format 106KB]

What Are the Effects of Detention on Palestinian Children?

The effects of detention on Palestinian children are widespread and long-term. In addition to the physical repercussions of torture on children, child ex-prisoners experience symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome such as the inability to relate to their friends and family, bed-wetting, nightmares and anxiety. Moreover, because Palestinian children are denied the right to continue their education whilst in detention, they fall behind in the educational system and often leave school early. Due to the inability to obtain permits and the subsequent restriction on movement, unemployment is another significant problem faced by Palestinian ex-detainees.

Campaign Factsheet: A Generation Denied - Conditions of Detention and Psychosocial Effects on Children [PDF Format 134KB]

Are Israel 's policies towards Palestinian child prisoners a violation of international law?

Unequivocally yes. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory, states amongst other things the following:

"No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" Article 37 (a), UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)

Torture is the norm in Israeli detention centers and almost every Palestinian child reports some form of torture. This fact is widely acknowledged and thoroughly documented by local and international human rights organizations.

"Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the depravation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action." Article 37(d), UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)

Lawyer visits to Palestinian children are often restricted or banned outright by the Israeli Prisons Authority. Cases of Palestinian children from the West Bank and Gaza Strip are heard before an Israeli Military Court not a Juvenile Court. The Military Orders that govern the proceedings of the Military Court are not laws, though they function as such and are intended to give a legal veneer over the institutionalized system of discrimination. Rather, they are 'policy' orders, the implementation of which depends on the prevailing political environment. In the majority of cases the hidden hand of the Israeli General Security Services (GSS or Shabak) can be felt in the decisions of the court. The GSS is a quasi-state body that is not under the authority of any government ministry but reports directly to the Israeli Prime Minister. Thus decisions made by the judge may be determined by the GSS before the trial itself.

"No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time." Article 37 (b), UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)

Palestinian children are often arrested from their houses in the middle of the night without a warrant. The Israeli army or police will sometimes carry out mass arrests of Palestinian children from particular areas without specific charges or a warrant. In the majority of cases, children are not informed of the reason for their arrest and families may not be able to locate their children for several days after their arrest. It is abundantly clear that detention is used as the primary form of punishment against Palestinian children and not as a measure of last resort.

Campaign Factsheet: Three Children - Three Stories [PDF Format 242KB]

4. Media Contacts

5. Politicians and U.S. Congress Representatives

Write to your government; representatives; party members etc.

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