Covid-19: Israel told to free Palestinian child prisoners

24th Apr 2020

Harun Nasrullah

Human right groups are urging the Israeli Government to free Palestinian child detainees amid the Coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.

The call for the detainees’ release intensified after Israeli media reported on March 20 that four Palestinian prisoners held at Megiddo prison tested positive for Coronavirus, all four were in contact with an Israeli officer who tested positive for the virus.

A spokesman for Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP), called on Israel to “take immediate action to release all Palestinian child detainees in Israeli prisons and detention centres due to the increasing vulnerability created due to the rapid global spread of the Coronavirus virus and to safeguard their right to life, survival, development, and health by international law.”

Along with the American Friends Service Committee, DCIP has been pressuring the Israeli Government to drop its child detention policy for years, through its No Way to Treat a Child campaign.

According to DCIP, approximately 10,000 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli forces since 2000. From the testimonies of 739 Palestinian children detained by Israel over five years, DCIP found that 73 per cent of them experienced physical violence after their arrest.

Ayed Abu Eqtaish, DCIP Accountability Program Director, said, “We know the best way to prevent the spread of Coronavirus is for people to avoid being in close proximity to each other. There is no way Israeli prison authorities can ensure the health and well-being of Palestinian child detainees as long as they continue to be in a custodial detention setting.”

Last April Democrat Congresswoman Betty McCollum introduced the Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act (H.R. 2407).

The legislation is an updated version of a Bill that the congresswoman originally unveiled two years prior. It would prohibit foreign countries from using American funds to detain and prosecute children. Her Bill is currently cosponsored by 23 Democratic Congress members, including Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

As of April 11, Israel has had 10,525 confirmed Coronavirus cases and 96 deaths, while Palestine confirmed 628 cases and two fatalities.

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