Defenceless: The Impact of Israeli Military Detention on Palestinian Children

Growing up amidst military occupation and conflict has had a profound impact on Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza. It has impacted every aspect of their lives, from their safety and development to their psychosocial wellbeing and mental health. All Palestinian children face a myriad of protection risks, but one sub-set of children is uniquely vulnerable and suffers consistent violations of their fundamental rights: children who endure the Israeli military detention system.

In light of this, Save the Children surveyed more than 470 children across the West Bank, to hear about their experience of detention and to understand its resounding impact on their lives after release. The children echoed findings by other human rights organisations and painted a similarly bleak picture of the system. A majority reported they had endured a distressing or violent arrest or detention, in most cases at night; a coercive interrogation environment; physical and emotional abuse in detention; and a denial of essential services including an adequate education – all of which constitute a breach of their rights enshrined in international law. Save the Children’s research also reveals the lasting impacts of detention on children’s lives. As a result of the children’s and their families’ willingness to share their experiences and challenges after release, it is clear from their testimony that military detention has profound and far-reaching repercussions on children’s lives. This manifests as anxiety, depression, behavioural changes, eating and sleeping disorders, and physical symptoms including chest pains, exhaustion, and numbness.

Despite the traumatic experiences they have endured, Palestinian children who have spent time in detention retain their hope and are determined to reinstate their right to a bright and fulfilling future. The Israeli authorities, the Palestinian Authority (PA), international community and donors must heed their call for a different future and take urgent steps to ensure that Palestinian children’s vision becomes a reality. Save the Children believes that no child should be prosecuted in a military court, or any court that lacks comprehensive fair trial rights and juvenile justice standards. Save the Children is calling on the Government of Israel to respect international law and to end the detention of children under military law and their prosecution in military courts.

Published 2020-10-29