Child Detention

Since the West Bank is a part of the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) and has not been annexed by Israel, all criminal cases there–including those involving juveniles–fall under the jurisdiction of Israeli military law. In principle, military courts comply with the obligations of an occupying power under international law (see Fourth Geneva Convention). However, human rights organizations working in the West Bank, including B’Tselem, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and Defense for Children International (DCI), have extensively documented reports of mistreatment of Palestinian youth within the Israeli military detention system. Such allegations include both unreasonable use of force (such as threats, intimidation, long-term handcuffing, beatings, and solitary confinement) as well as lack of due process of law, as noted by the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report for Israel and the Palestinian Territories. If true, such practices would constitute a breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Israel ratified in 1991. Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) believes that all children, regardless of whether they are guilty or innocent, deserve to “be treated…in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age” within criminal justice systems around the world, including Israel (see CMEP Policy Position 12).

Facts at a Glance 

(Statistics as of April 2019 as cited in H.R. 2407)

  • 1.3 million Palestinian children in West Bank.
  • 500-700 Palestinian children detained annually.
  • 74% of detained children have not been read their legal rights.
  • 73% of detained children report experiencing physical violence. 
  • 66% of detained children are held in solitary confinement for average of 13 days. 
  • 41% of children are arrested during the middle of the night.
  • 33% of detained children sign confessions not in their native language.


H.R. 2407: Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act
Sponsored by Rep. Betty McCollum (MN-4), H.R. 2407 would amend the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1966 to prohibit any U.S. funds from supporting units of a foreign government’s security forces that have been known to detain, interrogate, abuse, or mistreat children in violation of international humanitarian law.
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Palestinian children detained by Israel increases amid COVID-19 pandemic, Defense for Children International, April 2020

In light of COVID-19 crisis, UN officials call for immediate release of all children in detention, including Palestinian children
Joint Press Statement from Jamie McGoldrick, Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), Genevieve Boutin, UNICEF Special Representative in State of Palestine, and James Heenan, Head of the UN Human Rights Office in the oPt. Read More

OBAIDA: A short film, No Way to Treat a Child, 2019

U.S. Tax Dollars Must Not Be Used to Detail Palestinian Children, The Nation, 2017
U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (MN-4) details the alleged abuses of the Israeli military court system’s treatment of Palestinian children. She argues that in the face of such evidence, the United States must ensure that foreign aid going to Israel is not supporting such injustices. Read More

Stories: Diyaa, Defense of Children International–Palestine, 2014 
Defense of Children International–Palestine documents the case of Diyaa, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, held in solitary confinement for 15 days after being arrested on the charge of stone throwing.
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A Stone’s Throw from Prison: Child Detentions in the Palestinian Territories, ISSUU, 2012
CMEP’s Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, summarizes the key finds from human rights organizations documenting the treatment of Palestinian youth in military detention. Read More   


Minors in Jeopardy: Violation of the Rights of Palestinian Minors by Israel’s Military Courts, B’Tselem, 2018
“The changes Israel has made [to its military justice system] have had no more than a negligible impact on minors’ rights. It would seem that they have far more to do with improved appearances than with what happens in actual practice. The reports – spanning a period of years, published by a variety of groups and agencies, relying on diverse methodologies – all point to the same factual findings which demonstrate that minors’ rights are regularly and systematically violated.” Read More

Statistics on Palestinian minors in the custody of the Israeli security forces [B’Tselem, 2018]  
Monthly statistics on child military detentions from 2008-2017, broken down by age and legal status as reported by the Israel Prison Service. Read More   

Unprotected: Detention of Palestinian Teenagers in East Jerusalem, B’Tselem and HaMoked, 2017
Testimony from 60 affidavits collected by B’Tselem and HaMoked from teenage boys who had been arrested and interrogated between May 2015 and October 2016 in East Jerusalem. Read More

Year-in-Review: Worst Abuses Against Palestinian Children in 2017, Defense for Children International–Palestine, 2017
A comprehensive look at issues facing Palestinian children, including the electricity crisis in Gaza, policy brutality, and military detention.
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Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016: Israel and the Occupied Territories, U.S. Department of State, 2016
Findings from U.S. Department of State report on human rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories, citing reports of abuse within the Israeli military detention system. Read More

Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations, UNICEF, 2013
Following an increasing number of allegations of ill-treatment of children in military detention, UNICEF conducted a review of practices related to children who come into contact with the military detention system. The review considers whether the military detention system is in conformity with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Read More


Document Detention: Justice for Palestinian Children

Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, CMEP’s Executive Director, hosts a webinar conversation with Brad Parker and Farah Bayadsi from Defense for Children International-Palestine. This webinar is part of CMEP’s Summer 2018 Campaign, Document Detention, to raise awareness on issues of child justice and the mistreatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention. Read more.