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Israeli military accused of 'systematic ill treatment' of children

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem

The Israeli military is accused of a "pattern of systematic ill treatment" of children and teenagers detained in the West Bank in a report by an international non-government organisation published today.

It alleges that minors between the ages of 12 and 17 have been arrested at night, bound and blindfolded, and interrogated without their parents or lawyers present. The arrest and transfer are "often accompanied by verbal abuse and humiliation, threats as well as physical violence", the Defence for Children International [DCI] adds.

The report, based on the testimonies of 311 children held in the military detention system over the past four years, found that most face "coercive" questioning, generally resulting in a confession. It adds: "The most common offence children confess to is throwing stones."

The report says the minors are usually taken in chains within eight days to a military court where they see a lawyer and their parents for the first time. While many initially protest their innocence, the report says, "in the end at least 90 per cent will plead guilty, as this is the quickest way out of a system that denies children bail in 87 per cent of cases".

The Israeli military’s Captain Aryeh Shalikar said last night that some Palestinian youngsters had been found to be “murderers and terrorists”, citing the fatal stabbings of a family of five in the settlement of Itamar last year The deaths of another settler and his son near Hebron in September showed that “throwing stones can kill,” he said.

The two Palestinians convicted for the Itamar killings were widely reported after they were arrested a month later to be 18 and 19. Two Palestinian men are currently standing trial for the killing of the settler and his son.

DCI says that nearly two-thirds of the minors are transferred to prisons inside Israel, which it says violates Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

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