BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Israeli military has shut down a program meant to decrease the number of night-time arrest raids targeting children in Palestinian homes after less than a year, with statistics suggesting that even when the program was active night raids barely decreased at all.
Military Court Watch, a Palestinian legal monitor focused on the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli detention, said in a statement on Thursday that the Israeli military had also failed to keep any statistics on the program it implemented of its own accord, meaning no independent evaluation could be conducted.
MCW said that the evidence “indicates that no genuine attempt has been made by the military authorities to effectively replace night arrests with summonses and that the pilot program has not been implemented in good faith.”
“No details of the pilot study were made public to enable an independent assessment,” the statement continued, adding that the military had since conceded that no records were even kept to begin with, in effect preventing any “internal or external assessment” of what they themselves had said was a “pilot program” that was to be implemented elsewhere if successful.
“The evidence indicates that repeated night-time raids by the Israeli military is an essential element in the military’s strategy of ‘demonstrating presence’ in Palestinian villages located near settlements amounting to a systematic pattern of intimidation.”
The report comes less than a year after Israeli military authorities unveiled the program to the international media with great fanfare, in the wake of a series of concerns raised in Europe and Australia over the effects of Israeli night-time raids on Palestinian homes.
MCW argued in the statement that despite the attention the program garnered, the Israeli military only reduced the number of night-time arrest raids targeting children by five percent in the two districts where it was implemented, Nablus and Hebron.
The program was meant to replace nighttime arrests with summons to be delivered to Palestinian homes calling for children wanted for questioning to report to Israeli military intelligence offices.
But MCW said in the statement that 67 percent of these summons were delivered to Palestinian children during raids conducted by the military “after midnight in a process that continues to terrify the civilian population.”
In effect, the military replaced the arrest raids with equally frightening summons-delivery raids, the group argued.
The group also said that the military official responsible for the implementation of the pilot study resides in a Jewish-only settlement in the West Bank in violation of international law, pointing out that this presents a clear “conflict of interest.”
The group said that the information had been released by Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders in a speech to the Dutch parliament on Jan. 15, and was based on meetings he conducted with Israel’s chief military prosecutor in the West Bank, Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Hirsch.
The program to end nighttime raids targeting children was initially promoted by Israel as part of its effort to reform military procedure in the wake of a damning 2013 report released by UNICEF.
The report released by Military Court Watch, however, suggests that the changes were primarily aesthetic.
According to the 2013 report, Israel is the only country in the world where children are systematically tried in military courts and subjected to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.”
“Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized,” it concluded, outlining 38 recommendations.
Over the past decade, Israeli forces have arrested, interrogated and prosecuted around 7,000 children between 12 and 17, mostly boys, UNICEF found, noting the rate was equivalent to “an average of two children each day.”
“The monthly average for 2013 shows that 219 children per month were in Israeli military custody, compared to 196 per month in 2012, marking a 12 percent increase,” UNICEF said on Monday.
Israel halts program to end night-time arrests of children | Maan News Agency.