Thursday 2 July 2015, marked the one-year anniversary of the kidnapping and killing of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. Muhammad was 16 at the time when he was kidnapped by Israeli settlers from his neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, beaten, tortured and then burnt alive. Settler violence directed towards children has continued unabated, often physically injuring and emotionally traumatizing the children while the settlers themselves enjoy impunity.
The Israeli occupation continues to violate Palestinians' human rights irrespective of their age and gender. As a result, Palestinian children continue to suffer the consequences of the prolonged occupation. Alongside settler violence, children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) are subject to excessive use of force, wilful killing, and arbitrary detention at the hands of the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF). They are also more broadly targeted by Israeli collective punishment policies such as house demolitions.
Incidents over the past week illustrate Israel's disregard of the rights of Palestinians, particularly children. Under international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL), protected persons, in particular children categorized as a vulnerable group, should be provided with special protection. However, Israel, the Occupying Power, continues to breach its obligations under international law towards the Palestinian civilian population, including children.
On Monday 22 June 2015 at approximately 6:30 pm, Islam Samir Abu Raida, was with his friends, Muhannad Abu Raida, Hisham Abu Matlaq, and Ibrahim Abu Raida, all 17, in the Abu Raida neighbourhood, Khuza'a, Khan Younes in the Gaza Strip, approximately 900 metres away from the buffer zone. The boys walked towards a newly paved street, about 300 metres away from the border. There were Palestinian residents in the area working on their farmlands, while other young men walked around near that same street. At the time, it was calm and there was no movement for Israeli soldiers on the other side of the buffer zone. The boys walked until they were 50 metres away from the borders. Islam then felt something penetrate his right foot and fell on the ground. Shortly after, he heard a gunshot. He did not understand what had happened but felt pain in his foot and realized he was shot and bleeding. Moments later, his friend Ibrahim shouted that he was injured as well. Islam saw Ibrahim on the ground around three metres away and saw him heavily bleed from his right foot. Islam saw Muhannad and Hisham fleeing towards the west. However a few minutes later, they returned and carried Islam and Ibrahim away from the buffer zone. They were transferred in an ambulance to the European Gaza Hospital in Khan Younes. Ibrahim was admitted to the ICU due to the severity of his wounds. Islam had the bullet removed and was remained in hospital for treatment. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 10796/2015)
In another incident, on Thursday 23 June 2015, members of the IOF, dressed as civilians, arrested seven Palestinian children, between the ages of 13-15 years old, from the neighbourhood of Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem. The children, who were accused of throwing stones, were beaten during their arrest and detention, including during investigations.
Al-Haq is gravely concerned about Israel's systematic excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians, including children. The Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials state that non-violent measures should be applied first in law enforcement activities, where the use of force firearms should only be administered if non-violent means are ineffective. The Principles further affirm that firearms should only be used in self-defence or defence of others against imminent threat of death or serious injury. Islam and his friends did not pose any threat to the IOF, and were arbitrarily fired on.
In addition to the use of force and firearms by the IOF, Israeli forces continue to arbitrarily arrest and detain Palestinians, including children. Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates that no child should be arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived from their liberty, and arresting a child should be a last resort. Furthermore, according to the same article, children detained must be treated with humanity, and must not be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The physical beatings and psychological abuse endured by Palestinian children in Israeli custody may amount to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment in violation of Article 7 of the ICCPR, Article 37(a) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention against Torture.
Furthermore, IHL requires that the occupied population is at all times humanely treated and specifically prohibits all measures of brutality. Acts of abuse may further violate Article 32 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Article 75(2) of Additional Protocol 1.