In 2012, the Palestine office of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) conducted a review of its own data, gathered since 2007, of violations of Palestinian children’s human rights in the West Bank. In addition, the office reviewed data gathered by the Palestine Section of Defense for Children International on the arrest and detention of Palestinian children by the Israeli military. In March 2013, UNICEF summarized its findings in the short report “Children in Israeli Military Detention.”
The report follows in the footsteps of recent work by DCI-Palestine, Save the Children, and the UK Foreign Office. UNICEF systematically reviews the standard procedures for a child’s arrest, interrogation , detention, trial, and incarceration in the Israeli military justice system. It notes each place where this procedure conflicts with international law. The report states unequivocally that “International law applicable in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory prohibits the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment under any circumstances. This prohibition is absolute and unconditional. This prohibition has no exceptions, not even for security considerations or for the threat of war.”
The UNICEF report received media coverage in several sources, including Haaretz. However, in a strongly worded editorial, the Australian‘s John Lyons accused UNICEF of a systematic collaboration with the Israeli government to minimize the report’s impact. Lyons cited an official press conference marking the report’s release, during which journalists were forbidden to record speakers who explicitly criticized Israeli policy. He also noted the report’s avoidance of strong language, including the word “torture.”
The full text of the UNICEF report is available here.