palestinian child
© Reuters / Ammar Awad
An Israeli human rights organization has accused the country of torturing Palestinian minors, with reported cases of public caging as well as threats and acts of sexual violence.

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) condemned Israel's failure to protect Palestinian minors from the alleged torture. The group demanded authorities introduce specific provisions for the protection of all children against torture in Israeli domestic law.

The human rights group states that international law against torture, as outlined in the Istanbul Protocol Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture, is not reflected by Israel's domestic legislature.

PCATI argues that "torture is a means of attacking an individual's fundamental modes of psychological and social functioning" as described in the Istanbul Protocol. Furthermore, "torture can impact a child directly or indirectly. The impact can be due to the child's having been tortured or detained, the torture of parents or close family members or witnessing torture and violence."

The group's report was published ahead of Tuesday's hearing by the Knesset's Public Petitions Committee on related issues. PACTI based their complaint on data from filed reports of abuses against children collected over the past decade.

The practice of placing the children in outdoor cages was stopped once Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni intervened following the discovery, the Jerusalem Post reports.

PCATI states that it continues to actively investigate cases concerning children's torture and ill treatment by IDF soldiers and interrogators. They are investigating threats and acts of sexual violence, caging prisoners in iron cages (including children), military conduct during detentions and arrests of Palestinians. Their collected data is also supported by a number of NGO's also involved in documentation of torture allegations.

According to the Israeli Public Defender's Office, knowledge of people being kept in iron cages surfaced during a night-time inspection of a prison at the height of a recent winter storm. Children were found kept outside in freezing temperatures for hours overnight following their arrest, and until they faced court charges the following morning.

"During our visit, held during a fierce storm that hit the state, attorneys met detainees who described to them a shocking picture: in the middle of the night dozens of detainees were transferred to the external iron cages built outside the IPS transition facility in Ramla," the Public Defender's Office wrote on its website.

© Reuters / Sharif Karim
"It turns out that this procedure, under which prisoners waited outside in cages, lasted for several months, and was verified by other officials."

PCATI emphasizes that "failure to allow the arrested child or minor to full enjoyment of his or her rights, including the failure to allow for an attorney or accompanying adult at the time of arrest and interrogation places the child in a state of helplessness, distress and increases the pressure being applied to the child by the security forces in order to achieve a confession or information during the interrogation."

PCATI says that the threshold for an "act of abuse" by Israel must be lowered when it comes to children. The NGO also believes that children and adults have the right to rehabilitation. The human rights group also says that abuse cases have the right to have their complaints fully examined and be "accompanied by a representative of their choosing when giving testimony to an Israeli investigator."

Citing this year's report by Defense of Children International (DCI-Palestine) and Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR), PACTI reiterated that "Israel is the only nation to automatically and systematically prosecute children in military courts that lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees."

The human rights association estimates that up to 700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12 years-old, are subject to Israeli military detention system each year.

"The majority of Palestinian child detainees are charged with throwing stones, and 74 percent experience physical violence during arrest, transfer or interrogation," according to evidence collected by Defence for Children International Palestine. Furthermore, "no Israeli children come into contact with the military court system."