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“Treatment inconsistent with child rights continues during court appearances, including shackling of children, denial of bail and imposition of custodial sentences and transfer of children outside occupied Palestinian territory to serve their sentences inside Israel,” the report said.
Such practice “appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised”, it added.
UNICEF based its findings on more than 400 cases documented since 2009 as well as legal papers, reports by governmental and non-governmental groups and interviews with Palestinian minors and with Israeli and Palestinian officials and lawyers.
Qadoura Fares, chairman of the Palestinian Prisoners Club which looks after inmates and their families, praised the report and called for Israel to be held accountable.
A spokeswoman for Israel’s Prison Service said there were currently 307 Palestinian minors in Israeli custody, 108 of whom are serving a prison sentence. Most of them, 253, are between the ages of 16 to 18 and the rest are under 16.
A senior Israeli officer in the Military Advocate General’s office said one of the jailed Palestinians, aged 17 at the time of his arrest, had stabbed to death two Jewish settlers and three of their children, including a three-month-old baby, in 2011.
He denied that minors, while in interrogation, were not allowed access to family members or a lawyer. “Very few of the parents take the time to come (to the police station),” he said.
UNICEF said Israel had made some “positive changes” in recent years in its treatment of Palestinian minors, including new hand-tying procedures meant to prevent pain and injury.
It also noted a 2010 military order that requires Israeli police to notify parents about the arrest of their children and to inform minors they have the right to consult a lawyer.
The Israeli officer said the army was considering videotaping interrogations and that a new military order, coming into effect in April, will limit to 48 hours the time a minor can be held prior to appearing before a judge.