October 19, 2012

How are the children?

by Laura Branca, DCI Senior Fellow
“How are the children?” is an African greeting that expresses what it is that should be uppermost in the minds of adults when we meet each other.  Each day of our pilgrimage here has increasingly brought us into awareness of the intolerable impact of the occupation on the children and youth in this region.
On October 14 and 15, the Dorothy Cotton Institute’s delegation met with human rights attorneys and counselors who provide legal aid and support to Palestinians and members of the resistance movement. Gaby Lasky and Gerard Horton devote their practices to the defense of people who have been unjustly arrested, detained and imprisoned under the discriminatory justice system operating in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

On Sunday we met with Gaby Lasky, a fiercely outspoken Israeli Jew born in Mexico and a human rights lawyer who represents Palestinians in the Israeli courts. The majority of these cases involve the denial of freedom of speech and freedom of demonstration, and we were struck by her descriptions of two different sets of laws and practices governing Israelis and Palestinians charged with the same offenses. 

On Monday we met Gerard Horton, International Advocacy Lawyer for the Defense of Children International – Palestine Section whose focus is on children and young people who are prosecuted in the Israeli Military court, which has jurisdiction over the Palestinian people.  We learned that 730,000 Palestinians have been prosecuted under military law and one in four Palestinian men has been detained. There are about 80 university students who have been arrested and detained without charge, and may be held for between six weeks and six years without their lawyers being allowed to review their clients’ files and determine why they are being held. What is happening to Palestinian minor children is even more disturbing.

Every year between five hundred and seven hundred Palestinian children are prosecuted in the military courts; the majority are 16-17 years old, but some are as young as twelve. 60% of these children are accused of throwing stones. Children under Israeli occupation are being denied their most basic human rights and are traumatized by violations of their human dignity under a system that renders their parents helpless to protect them.

We heard from both Gaby and Gerard that Palestinian and Israeli children accused of the same offense are treated quite differently. Israeli children are asked to come in for questioning during the daytime, accompanied by their parents, and if charged, are brought before a judge in civil court within 24 hours. Israeli soldiers frequently come in the middle of the night to arrest Palestinian children and youth, hand-cuffing and blindfolding them, and detaining them without access to their parents or a lawyer for up to four days before being brought before a judge. In the occupied territories, a child doesn’t have the right to have a parent or a lawyer present during interrogation by military personnel. Children are not informed of their right to remain silent, are sleep deprived, intimidated and are persuaded to sign statements written in Hebrew, a language few of them can read--statements implicating adult family members or neighbors. The immediate and long-term impacts of mistreatment under this system are devastating on many levels—to the children, to their families and to their villages. 

We are deeply concerned and troubled, but are grateful to Gaby and Gerard for presenting this critically important information on injustice being done to young people. Gerard sent us some links which we hope you will find very useful:

The Australian – Stone Cold Justice

Please note that while Gerard’s organization bears the same acronym “DCI” as the Dorothy Cotton Institute, it is not affiliated with us in any way.

For further information contact:
Gerard Horton
International Advocacy Officer - Lawyer
Defense for Children International – Palestine Section
Tel: +972 2 242 75 30 ext. 103
Fax: +972 2 242 70 18
Mobile: + 972 0599 087 290
Email: gerard@dci-pal.org Twitter and Facebook