Louise spoke in today’s Westminster Hall debate on Child Prisoners in Occupied Palestine. As Vice-Chair of Labour Friends of Palestine, Louise is keenly aware of the importance of this issue and uniting with people from across the political spectrum against the appalling detention of child prisoners in Israel.
Grave concerns have been expressed about reports of mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners by the Israeli authorities and a number of organisations, including UNICEF, have expressed very serious concerns about the continuing detention of child prisoners in Israel.
Speaking in the debate – Louise questioned the Minister over the role of G4S in the detention of child prisoners. The British multi-national is engaged in the detention of Palestinian child prisoners in Israel and that detention is in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Yet recently the UK Government moved to ban local authorities – usually Labour controlled - from divesting in companies like G4S on moral and political grounds such as these. This decision was clearly intended to neuter the vital political voice of local authorities who have shown through campaigns against apartheid in South Africa, for instance, how influential their voice can be. It should be for each local authority to decide whether they want to contract with companies accused of breaching international law.
Louise is calling on the Foreign Office to put further pressure on Israel to make much needed changes on this and to make much greater effort to address the concerns outlined in the report.
Today in Parliament, MPs from all political persuasions had the chance to raise this issue with the Government. The concern raised across the House will have been heard loud and clear by the Minister and MPs across the House will continue to seek assurances that the Government are putting pressure on the Israeli government to uphold their international obligations.
The findings of the independent 2012 Children in Military Custody report by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office were deeply concerning and outlined no fewer than 40 recommendations for how Israel should improve the way they deal with arrests, interrogations, bail hearings, plea bargains, trials, sentencing, detention, complaints and monitoring.
But of even greater concern was the conclusion in the report that as a result of the detention of children, Israeli security forces were in breach of six articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child including child’s best interests, non-separation from adults and, disgracefully, the article forbidding the use of shackles.
It has now been over three years since this report was published. But last year alone there was an 80% increase in the number of children in Israeli military detention. That is simply not acceptable.
Israel cannot continue to ignore international law and the rights of children.
These issues remind us how vital it is to redouble efforts to find a lasting peace agreement in the region and the two-state solution that is so long overdue. Ultimately, of course, only by upholding international law and building respect between Israel and Palestine will a peaceful settlement be upheld. The detention of child prisoners will damage that process.