Despite the global coronavirus pandemic, Israel has stepped its arrest of Palestinian children in the occupied territories, a new report from Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) says.
According to the report, released on Tuesday, 194 Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons and detention centers, marking a six percent increase from January.
Using data released by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), DCIP found that as of March 31 only 28 percent of Palestinian child detainees were actually serving out sentences, while the rest, over 60 percent of them (117 out of 194) were being held in pretrial custodial detention.
The data also indicated that the majority of the detainees were ages 16-17, while 30 were ages 14-15. Israeli forces have been documented as arresting Palestinian children as young as 12 years old.
Additionally, more than 70 percent of the child detainees were being held in prisons inside Israel in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states that, when facing detention by an Occupying Power, the detainee has the right to remain in the occupied territory during all stages of detention.
DCIP, along with several other rights groups, has previously called for the immediate release of all Palestinian child prisoners amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Tuesday’s report, the group doubled down on those calls, saying “the fact that Israeli forces continue to detain Palestinian children and hold the overwhelming majority in pretrial detention is unconscionable given the increased risk presented by COVID-19 to people deprived of their liberty.”
“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,” the report said.
“COVID-19’s impact is exacerbated by these living conditions making Palestinian children in Israeli prisons and detention centers increasingly vulnerable.”
According to DCIP, Israel arrests anywhere between 500-700 Palestinian children every year.
From the time of arrest — which usually takes place in the middle of the night — until the time they are processed in court, children face a number of rights violations, including physical harm, verbal abuse, coercion during interrogation, and being denied the presence of parents or lawyers during their interrogation.
DCIP estimates that “nearly three out of four Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces experiences some form of physical violence.”
Palestinian children, like adults, are processed in Israeli military courts, which boast a 99.7 percent conviction rate for Palestinians.