Protect Children from Military Detention Action Alert Background and Rationale
What’s Going on?
On April 30th, Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN) reintroduced the Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act to the 116th Congress to promote human rights for Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation. It would prohibit United States funds from being used to support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children.. The bill is a reintroduction of H.R. 4391 in the last Congress, which had 31 cosponsors. The bill amends an existing human rights law known as the “Leahy Law” to prevent U.S. tax dollars from supporting the Israeli military’s ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children.
Last Congress, the OSJ encouraged CRC members to reach out to their U.S. Representatives to cosponsor this bill. Unfortunately, it did not move through the House for mark-up or floor votes, so Rep. McCollum introduced an identical copy of the legislation this Congress. Therefore, we are seeking new cosponsors and hoping for movement of the bill through the House.
The CRC Middle East Study Trip report, with its recommendations adopted by the Board of Trustees on behalf of synod, concluded that “the major contribution the CRC can make as agencies, institutions, and individuals is to raise awareness of the plight of Palestinians—particularly our sisters and brothers in Christ—among our members and friends.”
In 2011, synod approved a revised mandate for the CRC Office of Social Justice to:
encourage and assist the CRCNA—its leaders, agencies, institutions, and members—to better “live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God” (Mic. 6:8). It focuses primarily on the systemic causes of poverty, hunger, and powerlessness, as well as those social injustices to which synod or the Board of Trustees (BOT) has directed it . . . raising the voice of the CRCNA in advocacy for and with those who suffer injustice, through action alerts to our members, participation in advocacy coalitions, and public statements when appropriate.
Our World Belongs to God, a contemporary testimony of the CRCNA, issues the following call:
We call on all governments to do public justice
and to protect the rights and freedoms
of individuals, groups, and institutions
so that each may do their tasks.
We urge governments and pledge ourselves
to safeguard children and the elderly
from abuse and exploitation,
to bring justice to the poor and oppressed,
and to promote the freedom
to speak, work, worship, and associate.
Since 1967, Palestinian people in areas controlled by Israel have been living under Israeli military law. In the West Bank, two separate legal systems operate: Israeli citizens are under the Israeli civilian and criminal legal system while Palestinians are under military law. Israel is the only country that automatically prosecutes children in military courts.
Israel is a signatory to several international laws that require that “all children in contact with judicial systems be treated with dignity and respect at all times,” including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Each year, between 500 to 700 Palestinian children are arrested, detained, and prosecuted by the Israeli military on charges, most often on charges of stone throwing. The children are frequently not allowed to be accompanied by their parents, and often report experiencing fear of physical violence, threats against their families, or imprisonment during interrogation. In many of these interrogations, documents the children see or sign are in Hebrew, a language most Palestinian children do not understand. Dozens of children have also been placed in solitary confinement, for an average of 13 days. The maximum sentence for stone throwing is 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment, depending on the child’s age. Under Israeli military law, beginning at 12 years of age, children can be charged with criminal responsibility, while children aged 16 years are defined as adults.
Nearly 60 percent of Palestinian child detainees are transferred to prisons inside Israel, limiting their contact with family members due to the difficulty of obtaining the Israeli-issued mandatory travel permits needed in order to leave the West Bank as well as the time involved in receiving a prison visit permit. Since 2000, at least 10,000 Palestinian children have been arrested, detained, and prosecuted by the Israeli military.
Ask Congress to ensure that the billions of dollars sent to Israel every year are not used to abuse or detain Palestinian children.