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Congressional Briefing on Palestinian Child Detention, June 2015
Action Alert: Tell Congress to advocate for Palestinian children
The detention of Palestinian minors by Israel raises serious concerns about lack of due process and ill-treatment.
These concerns serve as a call to action for those who feel a responsibility to care for the most weak and vulnerable members of society.
The ecumenical advocacy community's “Third Thursdays for Israel-Palestine” is urging you to contact your members of Congress to ask them to attend a congressional briefing to learn more about this issue and to advocate for ending the ill-treatment of Palestinian children in detention.
According to the Israeli human-rights organization, B’Tselem, as of the end of March 2015, 184 Palestinian minors were held in Israeli custody.
Furthermore, as B’Tselem pointed out, “The military law applied in the West Bank … denies [these Palestinians] the protections accorded to minors under both international and Israeli law.”
A 2013 UNICEF report states, “Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized.”
Improve protection of children
While noting positive progress on some fronts, a UNICEF update this year states, “The data demonstrates the need for further actions to improve the protection of children in military detention, as reports of alleged ill-treatment of children during arrest, transfer, interrogation and detention have not significantly decreased in 2013 and 2014.”
The congressional briefing, “International Juvenile Justice Reform: Children in Israeli Military Detention,” will take place Tuesday, June 2, at 9:30 a.m. in the Capitol Visitors Center, Congressional Meeting Room North.
The briefing will discuss the legal and structural components of the military court system, and situate the detention of Palestinian children within the larger context of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
Opening remarks will be by Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.
Featured speakers include Tariq Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian-American who will provide a firsthand account from achild’s perspective and examine the effects of detention.
An Interfaith Vigil on the occasion of the International Day for Protection of Children, Monday, June 1, at noon, will be at the Upper Senate Park, 200 New Jersey Ave NW, Washington, DC. The vigil, open to the public, will highlight the issue of Palestinian children in Israeli detention.
Editor's note: For more information:
“Children in Israeli Military Detention” (UNICEF, February 2015)
Political Action Congressional Briefings
Palestinian American teen recounts Israeli assault to packed room on Capitol Hill
The Electronic Intifada
11 June 2015
“If there wasn’t a video of me, I would be in jail and no one would believe what they did to me,” Palestinian American Tariq Abukhdeir, 16, stated during a US congressional briefing in Washington, DC on 2 June.
In July 2014, Abukhdeir was beaten unconscious by Israeli police in Shufat, a neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem. The vicious assault was captured on video.
After attacking him, Israeli forces arrested and detained Abukhdeir and five other youths without charge. Police prevented Abukhdeir from receiving medical treatment for five hours. Abukhdeir’s cousin, Muhammad Abu Khudair, 16, was kidnapped and burned alive by Israeli extremists just days before.
“Where are these soldiers now? Are they doing this to another Palestinian child? I want to go back this summer and be with my family and put this behind me,” the teenager told a packed room in the US capitol nearly a year after he
was beaten. ”But I know that for me to put this behind me, these soldiers have to be held accountable.”
Abukhdeir’s testimony at the congressional briefing was part of a three-day series of advocacy events in early June organized by Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCI-Palestine), the American Friends Service Committee and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation to raise awareness of Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinian children in military detention. More than 100 people, including staff from 36 congressional offices, attended the briefing.
Visibly upset Brad Parker, attorney and advocacy officer with DCI-Palestine, accompanied Abukhdeir and his family to the congressional briefing along with Jennifer Bing, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Middle East Program in Chicago. The rights groups are part of the No Way to Treat a Child campaign , which includes a broad coalition of groups.
Abukhdeir’s highly visible case helped bring attention to the plight of countless other Palestinian children in Israeli military detention who aren’t afforded access to the US State Department, which helped procure the Florida teen’s release from Israeli detention last summer.
The campaign aims to “target our own members of Congress, raise the issue, make it local and get people involved in demanding respect for Palestinian children’s rights,” Parker said.
Many government staffers were shocked to hear the specifics of Israel’s violations of children’s rights.
“You could see them visibly becoming upset,” Bing said, “as Brad [Parker] in particular was able to share with them the process of what happens during night raids, the kind of interrogations, the impact that it has on families.”
Part of a video series of the briefing is below, featuring Brad Parker, Tariq Abukhdeir and his mother Suha Abukhdeir.
Thousands of children arrested
DCI-Palestine states that “Israel is the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts that lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees. Since 2000, at least 8,000 Palestinian children have been arrested and prosecuted in an Israeli military detention system notorious for the systematic ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children.”
Last summer, more than 550 children were killed during Israel’s 51-day attack on the Gaza Strip.
Yet, as The Electronic Intifada reported this week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon caved in to pressure from Israel and the US and removed the Israeli military from its list of serious violators of children’s rights in an annual
report on children in armed conflict.
DCI-Palestine’s Parker said that he sees opportunities for further discussions between Palestinian children’s advocates and Washington policymakers.
“We’re embarking on an incremental approach to engaging on an issue with specific policymakers who aren’t necessarily predisposed to being sympathetic to the issue, or regularly interested in actually pursuing anything related to the issue,” he said.
Following the congressional briefing, Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesota wrote a “dear colleague” letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry, calling on him to make the “human rights of Palestinian children a priority in our bilateral relationship with the State of Israel.”
The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has launched an online drive to urge other members of congress to sign McCollum’s letter.
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