The overall human rights situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the treatment of children in detention, remains a matter of concern. In particular, there are serious concerns about the Israeli military court system which is used in relation to Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including children. The same system does not apply to Israeli settlers in the same geographical area. These courts have a near-one hundred percent conviction rate, a statistic which raises serious questions about the system’s compliance with international standards of due process.Ireland has raised our concerns at EU level and in international fora. In the most recent Universal Periodic Review of Israel, which took place last month, Ireland raised the issue of administrative detention, and made recommendations on the rights of detainees. During my visit to the Middle East last month, I raised Ireland’s concerns about the detention of minors directly with the Israeli authorities, including the issues of night-time arrests and blindfolding. Ireland also provides financial support to Israeli and Palestinian NGOs who are active in bringing these issues to light.
In relation to the specific case raised by the Deputy, the minor was not arrested directly after the incident, but an arrest later took place following political attention being paid to the case in Israel. The arrest was carried out in the middle of the night, and later broadcast on Israeli television. This raises serious concerns.
Irish and other EU diplomats have attended the person in question’s hearings in the military court, as this case has developed. The handling of this case so far is worrying. The minor is being held in Israel, which makes family visits very difficult. She is being held without bail pending trial, which may result in a very long period of detention, on the basis that she is a danger to public safety. This allegation lacks serious credibility.
The individual’s mother and other family members have themselves been arrested and held. The heavy-handed approach to dealing with the minor and her family risks creating an impression that there is an attempt to intimidate or to punish, related to their refusal to stop protesting against the occupation under which they live.
The Israeli authorities should ensure that all legal proceedings are in accordance with international standards of due process, including especially those related to children. I recall that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child entails obligations to use detention only as a means of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time, in the case of minors. My Department will continue to monitor this and other cases.