For the immediate release of Palestinian children detained by Israel

MPPM – Portuguese Movement for the Rights of the Palestinian People and for Peace in the Middle East, joining the appeals of high international instances, calls for the immediate release of Palestinian children held by Israel in order to safeguard their rights and their physical integrity in the present context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the end of April 2020, 185 Palestinian minors were being held in Israeli prisons and detention centres. Every year, Israel takes 500 to 700 Palestinian children to military courts, and it is estimated that since 2000, more than 10,000 Palestinian children have been held in the Israeli military detention system.

The current Covid-19 pandemic poses an increased risk to children detained by Israel. Under the conditions to which prisoners are subjected, it is impossible to avoid the risk of contagion to the detainees. However, even in a time of pandemic, the number of arrests has increased.

Israel has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. However, human rights organizations (including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, Defense for Children International), United Nations bodies (UNICEF, Committee Against Torture, Committee on the Rights of the Child) and others have documented the absence of the most basic guarantees of fair treatment, as well as the practice of torture and ill-treatment of minors by the Israeli armed forces, police, security services and prison services.

In the present context of the Covid-19 pandemic, there are increasing calls for the protection of persons deprived of their liberty, with special concern for children. In particular, statements by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet have recently made public statements, both calling for the urgent release of all children to return them to their families.

Of great concern is the situation in Gaza, where the inhumane blockade imposed by Israel, which extends to medical and humanitarian aid, further weakens an already fragile health system unable to respond adequately to the pandemic.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, as the occupying power, Israel is responsible for the health of the inhabitants of the occupied territories. Any restrictions on Palestinians' access to health care are therefore criminal, as is their undue exposure, particularly of children, to the risk of contamination during detention, interrogation and arrest.

In view of the evidence presented by so many entities, no individual, organization or State which claims to defend human rights can, in good faith, ignore the reality of Israel's violation or lack of protection of the human rights of Palestinian children and avoid the responsibility to draw all the consequences.
MPPM considers that it is the political and humanitarian obligation of national governments and international organizations:

  • To demand from the Israeli government respect for the rights of detained Palestinian children, in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which it is a party, within a more general framework of respect for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people;
  • To demand from the Israeli government the immediate release of detained Palestinian children and the end of arbitrary detentions imposed on young people and children;
  • To demand that the Israeli government lift all restrictions on access to medical and humanitarian aid to the West Bank and Gaza;
  • To denounce the agreements established with Israel that are based on respect for human rights, including the EU-Israel Association Agreement;
  • To fully recognize the State of Palestine, within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Lisbon, 10 June, 2020

The National Directorate of MPPM

This appeal was sent to the Prime Minister of Portugal, the President of the European Commission, the Secretary General of the United Nations and the Director General of the World Health Organization

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