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Israel mistreats Palestinian children in custody: UN agency

Unicef report says the mistreatment usually begins when they are arrested.

JERUSALEM // Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military are subject to widespread, systematic ill-treatment that violates international law, a Unicef report said yesterday.

The United Nations Children Fund (Unicef) estimated that 700 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17, most of them boys, are arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli military, police and security agents every year in the occupied West Bank.

According to the report, most of the youths are arrested for throwing stones. Israel says it takes such incidents seriously, noting that rock-throwing has caused Israeli deaths.

Unicef said it had identified some examples of practices that "amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture".

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said officials from the ministry and the Israeli military had co-operated with Unicef in its work on the report,

"Israel will study the conclusions and will work to implement them through continuing cooperation with Unicef, whose work we value and respect," he said.

According to the report, ill-treatment of Palestinian minors typically begins with the arrest itself, often carried out in the middle of the night by heavily armed soldiers, and continues all the way through prosecution and sentencing.

"The pattern of ill-treatment includes ... the practice of blindfolding children and tying their hands with plastic ties, physical and verbal abuse during transfer to an interrogation site, including the use of painful restraints," the report said.

It said minors suffered physical violence and threats during their interrogation, were coerced into confession and not given immediate access to a lawyer or family during questioning.

A spokeswoman for Israel's Prison Service said there were currently 307 Palestinian minors in Israeli custody, 108 of whom are serving a prison sentence. Most of them, 253, are between the ages of 16 to 18 and the rest are under 16.

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