Home > Rubriques > Languages - International > English > Children’s rights

Open letter to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children

Children’s rights

by George Abu Al-Zulof , Defence for Children International – Palestine Section

Sunday 22 April 2007

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
United Nations S-3161
New York , NY 10017

16th April 2007

Dear UN Special Representative Coomaraswamy,

On behalf of Defence for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI/PS), I would like to express my appreciation for your prioritisation of a mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) in light of Israel’s refusal last year to allow the dispatch of two UN missions mandated with investigating allegations of human rights abuses by Israel in the OPT (Human Rights Council resolutions A/HRC/RES/S-1/1 of 6th July 2006 and A/HRC/RES/S-3/1-2 of 20th November 2006).

As the leading organisation systematically monitoring violations of Palestinian children’s rights, it is our duty to make sure that during your visit you witness the range of breaches of international protection standards for children by the Israeli army and the Palestinian Authority, in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict. We hope that this visit will provide you with sufficient information to determine which actions can be carried out by your office in order to promote better implementation of the rights of Palestinian children.

Throughout the Second Intifada which started in September 2000, the rights of Palestinian children have been routinely and flagrantly violated by Israel, including their right to life, their right to liberty, education and healthcare, their right to a family life, their right to dignity and freedom from violence and abuse. However, despite repeated injunctions from the UN Human Rights Council, the international community and civil society, the Israeli government has never sought to alter its military strategy in order to lessen the impact of the conflict on Palestinian children.

As you will see from the attached briefing papers, DCI/PS monitoring of Palestinian children’s rights violations since the beginning of the Intifada shows no improvement in Israel ’s respect for international humanitarian law standards regarding the protection of children:

Child fatalities : In 2006, 124 Palestinian children were killed by Israeli military forces or settlers, 31% of whom were 12 years old or younger. In total, 861 children were killed since the beginning of the Intifada - that includes 9 children in the first three months of this year;
Child detainees : In 2006, some 700 Palestinian children were arrested by Israeli soldiers (about 5200 since the beginning of the Intifada in September 2000). Among those 700, around 25 were held on administrative detention orders (imprisonment without charge or trial). Israel continues to use imprisonment as a measure of first resort, to prosecute all children in Israeli Military Courts, to deny them prompt access to a lawyer and contact with their families, to deny bail to the majority of children before the military court, and to elicit confessions under interrogation and torture, and to attempt to recruit child detainees as collaborators with Israel’s secret security agency;
Access to education : Since the start of the second Intifada, Israeli military campaigns and Israeli settler activities have consistently disrupted and undermined education in the OPT. Curfews, checkpoint closures, military incursions, the construction of the Wall, physical attacks and threats against students and teachers have not only reduced access to education but also have resulted in the deaths, injury or psychological trauma of many Palestinian children and teachers.
As you are aware, child protection issues in the Israel-Palestine conflict extend beyond the six grave violations listed in the fifth report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict and include violations such as lack of access to education, displacement and lack of adequate housing (due to house demolitions), and coerced participation in military activities (such as the use of children as human shields or as collaborators). Unfortunately, violations related to these issues are often overlooked in favour of the pressing question of the recruitment of child soldiers, and as a result, the plight of Palestinian children is sometimes overshadowed by the conflicts in Central African and Asian countries.

We hope that you will take every opportunity during this country visit and afterwards to gather as much information as possible on violations of Palestinian children’s rights by the Israeli army and the Palestinian Authority, and advocate at UN and government levels for a stricter application of international protection standards for children in the OPT. During your visit, we ask you to seek further information from the Israeli government, the principal duty bearer, on the patterns of violation recorded by DCI/PS and presented to you in the documents attached to this letter. Indeed, respect for the rights of Palestinian children can only be achieved through joint efforts from all stakeholders and duty bearers. Unfortunately, the Israeli government has so far proved extremely uncooperative towards UN and civil society attempts at investigating Palestinian children’s rights violations and holding military commanders accountable for serious breaches of International Humanitarian Law. Successive governments have also consistently refused to engage in a dialogue on Israel’s responsibility to uphold human and child rights in the OPT, but without the Israeli government’s cooperation, will and resources, there is not much that the UN and civil society can do to put an end to Palestinian children’s suffering.

Therefore, we ask you, as the highest United Nations public advocate for the rights of children affected by armed conflict, and in keeping with the objectives of your new strategic plan, to endeavour to:

Seek information from the Israeli government on the circumstances of the alleged violations mentioned in the DCI briefing papers (this information is not made available to Palestinian NGOs);
Remind the Israeli government of its obligations under international child rights law and International Humanitarian Law, and elicit immediate commitments from the government;
Raise awareness about Palestinian children’s rights within the Task Force on Children and Armed Conflict;
Advocate at the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly for the need to investigate alleged violations of International Humanitarian Law by Israel , to hold perpetrators accountable and to protect Palestinian children from the impacts of the current conflict;
Advocate at the European Union, especially at the European Council, for Israel to be included in the list of priority countries of the EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict, in order to ensure regular monitoring and reporting of breaches of international child protection standards in the OPT and encourage EU institutions to make use of their political tools to apply more pressure on the Israeli government;
Put pressure on Palestinian Authority officials that you will meet during your visit to devote more resources to promoting the rule of law and respect for human/child rights within the Palestinian territories in order to reduce violence against children caused by internal clashes;
Issue a public statement on the responsibility of the Israeli government to uphold Palestinian children’s rights in their military campaigns;
Remind donor governments and agencies of their responsibility to hold Israel accountable for the destruction of Palestinian infrastructure and institutions (such as schools and hospitals) that they have contributed to (re)build;
Exert pressure on the Israeli government to agree to the visit of two urgent fact-finding missions to the occupied Palestinian territory, pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/4/L.2, adopted on 27 March 2007 during last month’s Fourth Council session.
Please refer to the attached briefing papers for specific data, figures and recommendations concerning violations of Palestinian children’s rights by the Israeli military monitored by DCI/PS.

We remain at your disposal for any further information requests from your office.

Yours sincerely,
George Abu Al-Zulof
Defence for Children International – Palestine Section