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New Bill Would Protect Palestinian Children from Abuse

Israeli military detaining a young man
Photo: / AFSC

Quaker org urges fast passage to protect human rights 

WASHINGTON, DC (May 1, 2019) Today, Rep. Betty McCollum introduced new legislation HR 2407 designed to hold Israel accountable for continued abuse of Palestinian children held in Israeli military detention in violation of international humanitarian law. The Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation act would ensure that U.S. financial assistance provided to Israel is not used to detain, interrogate, abuse, torture, and prosecute Palestinian children in military courts. 
“This new bill will be a great help in our increasingly successful efforts to mobilize people to speak up for Palestinian rights,” said Jennifer Bing, coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) Palestine-Israel program. “When faith communities see how their tax money supports the abuse of Palestinian children, they send a clear message to their Congressional leaders that this is no way to treat a child. Nowhere should children be beaten, coerced into confessions, detained without access to a lawyer or their parents, sentenced in military courts, and transferred to prisons often inaccessible to their families.” 
This is the second introduction of a version of this bill in Congress. The initial bill followed years of advocacy by AFSC, Defense for Children International - Palestine, and others through the No Way to Treat a Child campaign.  
Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes between 500 and 700 children each year in military courts that lack fundamental fair trial rights and protections. Since 2000, more than 10,000 Palestinian children have been subject to the Israeli military court system. Under Israeli military law, Palestinian children have no right to a lawyer during interrogation, and frequently report physical and verbal abuse from the moment of their arrest. 
The bill’s advocates expressed continued concern that Palestinian children were subject to a different legal process than Israeli children. “Palestinian and Israeli children experience separate and unequal treatment under the law,” said Aura Kanegis, AFSC’s Director for Public Policy and Advocacy. “While Palestinian children are subjected to regular abuse in military detention, no Israeli children, including those who live in the West Bank, are tried in Israeli military courts.”  
The Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation act would amend existing law by prohibiting U.S. military aid from being used by foreign armed forces to support the military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of children in violation of international humanitarian law. The bill also includes authorization of $19 million to monitor human rights abuses and provide treatment to Palestinian child victims of Israeli military detention and torture. 
“Dozens of faith and human rights groups have supported earlier efforts by Rep. McCollum to highlight the threat to Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation,” said Bing. “We continue to send a clear message to Congress: our tax money should not pay for the abuse of children. Not in Israeli detention centers, nor in detention centers in our own country.” 
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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Drawing on continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social systems. 

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