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Sharp Rise in the Number of Palestinian

Children in Prison
Some 438 youths held in Israeli jails in February, up from 170 last
Sharon Pulwer Apr 24, 2016 9:29 AM

Palestinian protesters near Ofer prison, April 2016. Abbas Momani, AFP
The number of Palestinian minors being held in Israeli prisons has soared
following the wave of violence that started last October.
Figures submitted by the Israel Prison Service show that the number of
Palestinian minors imprisoned for security-related offenses rose from 170 last
September to 438 in February.
Some 54 percent of the prisoners, 238, are in custody until the end of the legal
process gainst them. Seven have been detained without being charged, including
one who is not yet 16.
Human rights groups say that locking up minors infringes on their rights and
increases the chances of their returning to violence or terrorist activity.
While no Palestinian youths younger than 14 were held in prison last September,
by February five were incarcerated, including one girl. The number of prisoners
aged 16-18 rose from 143 to 324, while the number of prisoners aged 14-16 rose
from 27 to 98.
The figures show the growing involvement of girls in violent activity. While only
one Palestinian girl was serving a prison sentence in September, 12 girls were in
prison by February, including one younger than 14 and six others who were
detained until the end of legal proceedings.
Minors detained for security offenses
The minors are mostly being held in the Ofer, Megiddo and Hasharon prison
facilities. All the young girls are being held in Hasharon Prison. Prisoners who
commit security-related offenses do not receive rehabilitation sessions, since
the Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority deals only with criminal prisoners, by law.
Although most minors being held are not associated with any terror
organization, 18 of them declared that they belonged to the Palestine Liberation
Organization. One minor said he belonged to Hamas and another to Islamic
Most of the minors, 106, came from Hebron, with a further 104 from East
Jerusalem and 86 from Ramallah.
Itamar Barak, a data coordinator from the BTselem human rights nonprofit,
criticized Israels policy of jailing minors. This is an oppressive system based
only on incarceration.

There is no attempt to provide alternatives to imprisonment, he said.

The question is what a 14- or 16-year-old who spends a year in prison with
security prisoners learns about life, the world and the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. It only sends them back to the cycle of violence, he added.
Barak warned of Israels expanding use of detaining minors without charging
them for any offense or putting them on trial a measure rarely used until
recently. We must ask ourselves, What great danger is posed by a 16-year-old
boy that required imprisoning him without trial? he said.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel also criticized the tactic. The
nonprofit published a report in February, Arrested Childhood, about the
repercussions of policy and legislation changes on minors suspected of security
offenses such as stone throwing and disturbance.
The main, possibly only thing the state considers is deterring the minors, not
rehabilitating them and making them abandon violence, finds the report, written
by attorneys Nisreen Alyan and Meytal Russo. This troubling practice is
contrary to the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and
infringes on the instructions and principles of Israeli law.
Beyond that, it is doubtful if this harsh policy achieves its goal deterrence,
they wrote.
The attorneys based their conclusions on a Prison Service study, which showed
that the lower the prisoners age, the higher his chance of returning to crime.
The study, focusing on prisoners who were released in 2008, found that 75
percent of those incarcerated as minors would return to prison later in life.
According to figures the Prison Service gave to the advocacy group Adalah in
January, out of 437 minors who were jailed then for security offenses, 431
were Palestinian including 45 Israeli citizens and 101 East Jerusalem residents.
The remaining six underage prisoners were suspected of being involved in Jewish
Adalah added these figures to the petition it filed to the High Court of Justice
last week against the law that denies social benefits to parents of minors
convicted of security offenses.
The law was passed last November as part of the governments effort to combat
the stonethrowing incidents, which involved mainly minors.
The petitioners, which include Hamoked the Center for the Defense of the
Individual, the human rights group Addameer and the Israel Association for
Child Protection, say that denying social benefits is discrimination on the basis
of nationality, as it applies almost exclusively to Palestinian children. They claim

that separating the prisoners who were imprisoned for security offenses from
others also constitutes discrimination.
The law also infringes on the basic right to live in dignity by denying the parents
child allowance for a convicted child, the petitioners say. The law doesnt take
into account whether the offense was light or serious; for how long the minor
was sent to prison; and the circumstances of the incident. It also doesnt
consider the circumstances of the childs family, which will be impacted by the
denial of its social benefits, they say.
Sharon Pulwer
Haaretz Correspondent
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