Children of Palestine

“Children have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, physically or mentally. Governments should ensure that children are properly cared for and protect them from violence, abuse and neglect by their parents, or anyone else who looks after them.”

Article 19 of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child

 

Children in Israeli Prisons

Contrary to international norms and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory, children under the age of 16 in the Occupied Territories can be arrested, tried and treated in the same manner as adults.

Israel has often chosen to sidestep both its own regulations, and those of the UN Convention by charging and sentencing children as young as twelve years old.

Between the ages of 12-14, children can be sentenced for offences for a period of up to 6 months. After the age of 14, Palestinian children are tried as adults. There are no juvenile courts, and children are often detained in centres together with adults.

This practice is also illegal according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states “every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child’s best interest not to do so”. Over the last eight years an estimated 6,700 Palestinian children were arrested and detained in Israeli prison facilities and treated in the same manner as adults.

Anxious Children

The ongoing occupation of Palestine, and the humanitarian crisis which it entails, is an endless source of trauma in Palestine, especially among the young who lack the understanding and coping skills of adults. Furthermore, those adults who are mentally ill or affected by the occupation bring their traumas home where their wives and families bear the brunt.

According to Dr. Eyad El Sarraj, “The psychological effects of violence are severe and traumatizing. While many injured children have acquired a permanent physical disability, many more have developed psychological impairments. The prevalence of neurotic symptoms and behavioural problems among children, such as disobedience or irritability, is high. According to recent research in the Gaza Strip, some 32.7% of children suffer severe levels of post-traumatic stress disorder, 49% moderate levels, and 16% low levels”.

According to World Health Organization’s Rajiah Abu Swai: “Children are more vulnerable to mental illness. It is particularly important for children to be able to grow up in a situation in which they can feel secure and in which they do not experience fear. It is essential that they can sense that their parents are protecting them…When the Second Intifada started in 2001, there were many incursions, shellings and bombings into the West bank and in Gaza.

In parallel, there were more recorded instances of violence in schools as well as aggression, nightmares and bedwetting at home. This is normal, because when a child sees that his parents are as scared as he is and are unable to control or stop a negative situation, he will become even more frightened or anxious”.

 

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