Israel must release all Palestinian child detainees amid COVID-19 pandemic

Demand that Israeli authorities take immediate action to release all Palestinian child detainees in Israeli prisons and detention centers due to the increasing vulnerability created due to the rapid global spread of the COVID-19 virus and to safeguard their right to life, survival, development, and health in accordance with international law.

Palestinian children imprisoned by Israeli authorities live in close proximity to each other, often in compromised sanitary conditions, with limited access to resources to maintain minimum hygiene routines, according to documentation collected by DCIP.

COVID-19’s impact is exacerbated by these living conditions making Palestinian children in Israeli prisons and detention centers increasingly vulnerable.

There is no way Israeli prison authorities can ensure the health and well-being of Palestinian child detainees as long as they continue to be in a custodial detention setting.

In a headcount at the end of January 2020, 183 Palestinian children were detained in Israeli prisons, according to the latest figures released by the Israel Prison Service.

While international law demands that children only be detained as a measure of last resort, custodial pre-trial detention is the norm for Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces from the occupied West Bank.

COVID-19 in Israeli prisons and detention facilities

Four Palestinian prisoners detained at Israel’s Megiddo prison, located inside Israel northwest of the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, were placed in isolation after they were in contact with a COVID-19 positive Israeli officer, according to Ha’aretz.

Megiddo prison is one of several detention facilities located inside Israel where Palestinian child “security prisoners” are held.

In April 2020, two Palestinian child detainees were suspected of being infected with COVID-19 at Israel’s Ofer prison, located in the occupied West Bank between Jerusalem and Ramallah, where many Palestinian child detainees are held. The two boys were examined and after testing negative for COVID-19 they were sent back to their prison room three days later.

One Palestinian adult detainee in Ofer prison tested positive for coronavirus in the adult section closest to the juvenile block where over 50 Palestinian child detainees are held, according to information collected by DCIP.

While IPS staff reportedly clean and disinfect the shared prison yard on a daily basis, prison cells and rooms are not being disinfected. Detainees at Ofer prison, including child detainees, are not provided with hygiene products, according to information collected by DCIP.

As of April 13, 11,235 people in Israel had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, and 110 have lost their lives, according to Ha’aretz.

In the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip there were 272 confirmed cases of persons infected with COVID-19 as of April 13. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh declared a state of emergency across the Occupied Palestinian Territory on March 5 in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19. On April 3, it was extended for an additional 30-day period.

As of April 12, worldwide there are 1,696,588 cases of COVID-19, and 74,237 fatalities, according to the World Health Organization.

Updated on April 13, 2020.