On Universal Children's Day, Israeli forces hold close to 400 Palestinian children some as young as 12 in Israeli prison and detention centers. More than 700 children are arrested by occupation forces every year, some of whom are placed under administrative detention without trial or charge claiming they pose a viable security threat.

Israel’s ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees remains widespread and systematic. Data compiled by Defence for Children International Palestine (DCIP) between January and June 2015 shows that 86 percent of Palestinian children endured some form of physical violence following arrest. Israeli interrogators also use position abuse, threats, and solitary confinement to coerce confessions from some children. In the majority of these cases, Israeli authorities deprived children of legal counsel and improperly informed them of their rights.

Since October 2015, Israeli authorities placed an estimated 20 Palestinian children under administrative detention. Israeli authorities rely on the Emergency Powers Law to authorize the use of administrative detention in Jerusalem. In the occupied West Bank, where military law applies to the Palestinian population only, Israeli Military Order 1651 permits administrative detention for a period of up to six months, subject to indefinite renewals.

A bill, approved by the Israeli Knesset, allows custodial sentences for children, as young as 12, convicted of “nationalistic-motivated” offences. The actually serving of the sentences would be deferred until the children reach the age of 14. The bill comes on the heels of Israeli prosecutors charging 13-year-old Ahmad Manasrah, who was sentenced for 12 years in prison, for allegedly carrying out a stabbing attack in East Jerusalem in October 2015. Previous Israel’s criminal law prohibited custodial sentences against children under 14 in favor of rehabilitation and reintegration.

The Knesset further passed a series of amendments to the Israeli penal code and youth law. They imposed a 10-year prison sentences for throwing stones or other objects at moving vehicles with the possibility of endangering passengers or causing damage. Those convicted of throwing stones with the purpose of harming other would receive double the sentence. 

The Knesset also amended the national insurance law to deprive children convicted of “nationalistic-motivated” offenses and “terrorist activities” from social benefits during their imprisonment. It further allowed Israeli juvenile courts to impose fines on their families up to NIS 10,000 (US$2,580).

Extrajudicial executions of Palestinian children have also alarmingly increased since October 2015, as several Palestinian children have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers and police with no adequate investigations or forensic autopsies. These for example, include Mu’taz Ewisat, a 16-year-old Palestinian child from Jerusalem shot by Israeli police on 17 October 2015, whose body was being held by Israeli police for several months.