The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights is issuing a report that looks at the alarmingly systematic use of torture and abuse against children who are trying to flee the catastrophic conditions of the Gaza Strip.
In the context of Israel’s 13-year closure and blockade, an alarming number of child residents are undertaking dangerous routes out of the Strip, in search of better living conditions and the chance at a dignified life. Al Mezan’s new report focuses on the arrest of these children, in particular 91 child victims who tried to cross the perimeter fence into Israel between 2015-2019.
Alarmingly, all 91 children told Al Mezan about some form of torture, ill-treatment or abuse by the Israeli and, to a lesser extent, Palestinian authorities with whom they came into contact.
The children reported being beaten with rifle buts and punched, verbally abused and forced to maintain stress positions by the Israeli forces. They reported being exposed to an array of violent and coercive questioning methods by Israeli interrogators, including sleep deprivation, severe beatings, and insults or humiliation.
Some children also reported being deprived of food, water and access to a toilet while in Israeli custody. A couple of children reported attempts by agents to coerce them into becoming informants for the Israeli security services.
Compounding the children’s ill-treatment, the survey shows that 70 of them were re-arrested in the Gaza Strip, this time by the Palestinian security services. Nearly a third of this group said that they were beaten and insulted within their detention.
Al Mezan’s documentation indicates that the Israeli military uses excessive and harmful means—that include lethal force, injury and arrest—to control the buffer zone. As a result, eight children were shot and killed and six wounded in the reporting period.
Still, Gaza’s residents sought to flee. Of the 91 children surveyed for the report, 59 said that they did so out of economic distress. Eleven children cited violence in the home, a factor that Al Mezan views as interrelated with poverty, and an additional four children said that they were driven by both factors. The remaining children cited depression and lack of adequate shelter, among other reasons, for fleeing Gaza.
According to Al Mezan’s investigations, over 70 percent of the children are from big families and 78 percent of the children’s families earn less than 1,000 ILS (USD 292) per month. The high dropout rates among the children (65 of the 91 had dropped out of school) may point to a perceived lack of a future.
Al Mezan’s analysis of the children’s accounts leads us to conclude that a spectrum of prohibited torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment (CIDTP) was used against the children in a widespread, systematic and institutionalized manner. To this end, Al Mezan put forth a number of recommendations and calls for action from the international community and Palestinian duty-bearers. A summary is repeated for emphasis here:
The international community:
The full report (in English) is available for download at the link