Murders, mutilations, arbitrary detentions: the UN documents violations of children's rights in Palestine | International

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Gaza children injured in rubble and in hospitals have become a symbol of the war Israel is waging against Hamas. But minors in the Palestinian territories have been suffering systematic violence for decades. 1,434 Palestinian children have been murdered, most at the hands of the Israeli armed forces, between 2008 and August 31, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Another 1,679 minors suffered some type of mutilation between 2019 and 2022, as maintained by the Office for Children and Armed Conflicts (CAAC), under the Secretary General, António Guterres. Since 2000, 13,000 Palestinian children have been detained, interrogated, tried and imprisoned, according to the NGO Defense for Children International, which cites data from Unicef. Many had to receive medical treatment during their arrest (1,598 in the last decade), suggesting that they suffered some form of mistreatment.

These are some of the data presented by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Territories of Palestine, the Italian Francesca Albanese, before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday. Albanese's report, which has not been authorized by Israel to collect information on the ground, has been prepared based on data from international organization agencies and local NGOs, complaints and direct testimonies from victims. It reflects how the current war has exacerbated the suffering of children in Gaza and the West Bank, but, above all, how minors in both Palestinian territories have been subjected to “structural violence” by Israel long before. Violence that systematically violates their most basic human rights, such as the right to life, dignity, education or housing. Therefore, she calls on the United Nations to demand that Israel “immediately stop all its abusive practices on Palestinian children” and to prioritize “the best interests of the minor in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The document, titled 'Unchilded' from birth (Deprived of childhood from birth), makes special reference to Gaza. During the 16 years of Israeli blockade of the Strip and in the six major military operations deployed by Israel in that territory since then - 2008-2009, 2012, 2014, 2022 and the current one in 2023 - Israeli attacks have killed 4,269 Palestinians , of which 1,025 were children. “Prior notices [a los bombardeos] “They have proven to be ineffective: entire families have been killed in night attacks,” the report says, citing the Israeli NGO B'Tselem. Then he adds: “In selective murders there are no warnings and children become 'collateral damage'.” “Palestinians in Gaza have been 'imprisoned' for 16 years and have few or no places to shelter when the bombs fall,” he continues. “Even UNRWA schools [la agencia de la ONU para los refugiados palestinos] They are not safe,” Albanese recalls. Since the start of the war, 32 of that agency's facilities in Gaza have been bombed by Israel, killing at least 14 of its workers.

The report dedicates an entire section to mutilated minors (1,679 between 2019 and 2022 in Gaza and the West Bank). One of the main causes of that figure is the Israeli military practice of “shooting to wound,” reported by medical personnel in both Palestinian territories. Israeli forces, according to the document, have abandoned “traditional methods” of dispersing demonstrations “to shoot at the knees and femurs of protesters or target their vital organs.” “During the 2018 protests in Gaza, Israeli forces caused the permanent disability of many of the 940 children they shot, leaving 20 mutilated and with other disabilities such as blindness,” maintains the rapporteur. The use of force in these protests was considered “unnecessary, disproportionate and, therefore, inadmissible,” by the UN commission of inquiry that investigated the actions of the Israeli authorities. In total, minors injured in the occupied territories between 2008 and last August 31 amount to 32,175, according to OCHA.

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Regarding the arrests (13,000 since 2000), the document recalls that “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” have been reported by UN agencies such as the Committee on the Rights of the Child and NGOs on the ground. “Palestinian children can be arrested anywhere, at checkpoints, on the way to school, during operations in cities and camps or even in their own beds,” says Albanese. Most of the children are accused of throwing stones at Israeli armored vehicles, a crime that can lead to 10 to 20 years in prison, and during their detention, 77% do not have access to lawyers before interrogations, according to the Palestinian NGO. Military Court Watch, while 60% are deported to Israel, which, according to the report, constitutes “a war crime.” The latter “hinders family visits” due to the difficulty of obtaining permits to access Israeli territory. “Parents are almost never informed of the whereabouts of their children during arrest, which not only violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but can constitute a forced disappearance that, in a context of systematic and extensive attack against the population civil, constitutes a crime against humanity,” he continues.

Insulation and permanent light

The conditions of detention are also, in many cases, illegal. Children are often kept in conditions of absolute solitude in cells without windows and with permanent light, a prohibited practice whose duration has increased from 12.5 days in 2022 to 16.5 in 2023. “The irreparable effect of the isolation of people "Such a young person in such a critical period of their neurological, physiological and social development carries a serious risk of developing disability and psychological damage," the document continues, recalling that this practice "is associated with an increased risk of suicide and self-harm, and "It causes reintegration problems, preventing us from addressing the causes of children's disruptive or violent behavior."

Albanese also focuses on the forced poverty and underdevelopment that the Israeli occupation generally implies in these territories, which, according to his report, has already cost the Palestinian economy nearly 10.5 billion euros, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development. (UNCTAD). This cost has pushed the occupied territories into underdevelopment, condemning 2.1 million citizens, half of whom are children, to live below the poverty line, according to the International Monetary Fund. Half a million Palestinian children live in food insecure conditions without sufficient access to quality food, according to the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs. “This affects their mental, physical and behavioral health, their education and, consequently, their life opportunities.” Since the beginning of the occupation, Israel has destroyed 56,500 Palestinian homes, according to the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, in what the rapporteur describes as a “tool to end the Palestinian presence” and “collective punishment”, with the consequent effect in children, who make up half of the population.

Displaced Palestinian children play at a UNRWA school in Khan Younis, Gaza, on October 23. HAITHAM IMAD (EFE)

The right to education is also affected by the demolition of schools in the West Bank (11 since 2010) and the lack of space in Gaza, where there are not enough classes for everyone. 70% of UNRWA schools in the Strip and 63% of public schools operate with double or triple shifts each day. Since 2012, more than 300 children and teachers have been detained in or while going to schools, while another 481 had their school supplies confiscated at Israeli checkpoints. Attacks on educational centers are also frequent, with 1,826 raids or bombings carried out by Israel's occupation forces in 12 years, according to the UN CAAC special representative. In Gaza, classes are suspended with each military operation.

The rapporteur also accuses the Palestinian militias, such as those who committed the massacres on October 7 in Israel, whom she also accuses of rights violations. “The illegality of the occupation [israelí] Since 1967, including the blockade of Gaza, they have not exempted Palestinian armed groups from their own obligations,” says Albanese. “Their use of rudimentary rockets against Israel, endangering civilians, including children, can also be considered a war crime,” she adds. However, “this does not justify Israel's indiscriminate attacks on densely populated residential areas of Gaza,” the report concludes.

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