In moving this motion I express my deep concern for the growing number of Palestinian children who are being detained by the Israeli government under military laws. Israel is the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts, and only Palestinian children, passing laws that legalise the imprisonment of children under 14 years of age… More children are being subjected to what human rights groups have consistently noted are instances of abuse, torture, ill-treatment and failure of due process.
Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (11:43): I move:
That this House:
(1) acknowledges that:
(a) 500 to 700 Palestinian children are arrested, detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system each year;
(b) Human Rights Watch reported in April that arrests of Palestinian children by Israeli forces had doubled in the preceding six months;
(c) Defence for Children International research, based on 429 affidavits from Palestinian children, indicates that 97 per cent of children had no parent or legal counsel available during interrogation and 75 per cent endured some form of physical violence following arrest;
(d) the United States State Department’s 2014 human rights report on Israel states that military courts have more than a 99 per cent conviction rate for Palestinian defendants;
(e) UNICEF has reported that ill-treatment in the Israeli military detention system remains widespread, systematic, and institutionalised throughout the process; and
(f) Australia raised concerns with Israel about the treatment of Palestinian minors in 2011 and 2014, however there has been little improvement concerning the treatment of Palestinian children by Israeli forces; and
(2) calls on the Australian Government to raise concerns with the Israeli Government about the treatment of Palestinian children.
In moving this motion I express my deep concern for the growing number of Palestinian children who are being detained by the Israeli government under military laws. Israel is the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts, and only Palestinian children, passing laws that legalise the imprisonment of children under 14 years of age.
While the Australian government has, on multiple occasions, previously committed to the issue of the treatment of Palestinian children in detention, by raising concerns in 2011 and 2014, this brutal issue is far from being resolved. In 2013 significant changes to the application of military law to children were made, such as reducing the time spent in remand, issuing summonses instead of night raids, and using Arabic in documentation and interrogation of Palestinian children. However, the impact, in practice, of these measures appears to have failed to have made any significant improvements.
Instead, as recently as 2015, the Israeli Knesset amended the Israeli Youth Law to impose mandatory minimum jail sentences for rock-throwing offences—but which can carry penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment—and strip parents of convicted children of their welfare benefits. This has seen the imprisonment of Palestinian children as young as 11 years of age, and many children are held without charge. Further, reports from human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF, Defence for Children International and even the US State Department, indicate that Israel continues to fail to implement the necessary protections for Palestinian children. It is estimated that between 500 and 700 Palestinian children are arrested, detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system each year. In April this year, the Israeli Prison Service reported that there were 414 Palestinian children in Israeli prisons, an increase of 250 children from the year before.
More children are being subjected to what human rights groups have consistently noted are instances of abuse, torture, ill-treatment and failure of due process. UNICEF has described the detention of Palestinian children as a system of ‘widespread, systematic and institutionalized’ ill-treatment. In May this year, the UN Committee Against Torture noted that there continue to be ‘many instances in which Palestinian minors were exposed to torture or ill-treatment’ while under detention in Israel. Most alarming are the allegations that children have been subjected to torture to coerce confessions and have not been afforded adequate food, water and toilet facilities.
The systemic deprivation of important legal and procedural rights and opportunities to Palestinian children is also very deeply concerning. Children are often not provided with legal assistance, are denied the ability to communicate with their parents—or their parents are not notified of their arrest—and are made to sign confessions in Hebrew, indicating that the child may not fully understand the confessions he or she has made. Additionally, children are taken out of the West Bank and detained in prisons within Israel, separating them from their place of residence and where their families live. Not only is this a contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits transfer of civilian detainees from their country, but, like the other abuses, this practice is also significantly counterproductive to managing the conflict and anger in the Palestinian communities.
Currently, Palestinians living in the West Bank are subject to Israel’s military legal system and are policed by its security forces. It therefore applies different laws, judges, and courts to Palestinian children compared to children in Israel. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has previously condemned the application of different laws, arguing that it is effectively discrimination against Palestinian children on the basis of their nationality. In 2004, the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion that stated that the rights contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child apply to every child within the Israel’s jurisdiction, which includes the West Bank.
Despite its assertions to the contrary, Israel owes the same obligation to Palestinian children as it does to Israeli children, including upholding the prohibition against torture and degrading treatment, the right to prompt and appropriate legal assistance, the right to request a parent to be present while under police custody and, importantly, to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth. Significantly, Israel continues to fail its obligations to protect and extend the human rights of Palestinian children.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Georganas ): Is the motion seconded?