Palestinian children in Israeli military detention are "systematically" subject to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment," according to a new report released by United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday.
The report, Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations (pdf), estimates that over the past decade Israeli forces have arrested, interrogated and prosecuted around 7,000 Palestinian children aged between 12 and 17, "an average of two children each day."
Responding to an increasing number of allegations of the ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention, UNICEF undertook the review of their military practices from apprehension through the arrest, transfer, interrogation and eventually the court proceedings for child detainees.
According to the report, what they found was disturbing evidence that the "ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized," frequently violating the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture.
Based on their legal analysis of the military's framework and testimonies from children, the report found that minors—the majority of whom are arrested for throwing stones—are frequently subject to physical violence and threats during interrogation, are coerced into confessions, and do not have immediate access to lawyers or family during questioning.
Of the report, Agence France-Presse writes:
In a step-by-step analysis of the procedure from arrest to trial, the report said the common experience of many children was being "aggressively awakened in the middle of the night by many armed soldiers and being forcibly brought to an interrogation center tied and blindfolded, sleep deprived and in a state of extreme fear."
Many were subjected to ill-treatment during the journey, with some suffering physical or verbal abuse, being painfully restrained or forced to lie on the floor of a vehicle for a transfer process of between one hour and one day.
In some cases, they suffered prolonged exposure to the elements and a lack of water, food or access to a toilet.
UNICEF said it found no evidence of any detainees being "accompanied by a lawyer or family member during the interrogation" and they were "rarely informed of their rights."
"The interrogation mixes intimidation, threats and physical violence, with the clear purpose of forcing the child to confess," it said, noting they were restrained during interrogation, sometimes for extended periods of time causing pain to their hands, back and legs.
"Children have been threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault, against themselves or a family member," it said.
Most children confess at the end of the interrogation, signing forms in Hebrew which they hardly understand.