Legal Frameworks

Israeli Military Detention - No Way to Treat a Child


There is a considerable body of international law, treaties and conventions prohibiting torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, governing civil and political rights, and protecting children.  These provide the legal framework underpinning our campaign.


There are well-established international conventions prohibiting torture and establishing norms for the treatment of children.  Yet the Israeli military orders governing most child detentions in the occupied territories do not measure up.

International Law, Treaties and Conventions.  According to UNICEF ( ) “the prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment is universal and absolute….there are no exceptional circumstances.”The table below from the UNICEF report summarizes the legal sources of guarantees and safeguards affecting children.


# Action Guarantees, Norms and Safeguards Source


Notification and reasons for arrest

All persons, including children, should be given reasons for their arrest, at the time of arrest. Parents or legal guardians should be informed of the arrest within the shortest possible time thereafter, in a language understood by the child and the parents or legal guardians.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) art. 9 (1) and (2); Beijing Rules, Rule 10.1


Use of instruments and methods of restraint

Children should be restrained only if they pose an imminent threat to themselves or to others, and all other means have been exhausted, or as a precaution against escape during transfer, but in all cases, only for as long as is strictly necessary.

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) art. 37(c); CRC General Comment No. 10, para 89; UN standard Minimum Rules, rules 33 and 34; tokyo Rules, rule 64


Privilege against self- incrimination

All children should be free from compulsory self-incrimination, which includes the right to silence. ‘Compulsory’ should be interpreted broadly and not limited to physical force. The age of the child and the length of the interrogation, the child’s lack of understanding and the fear of unknown consequences may all lead a child to give a confession that is not true.

CRC, art 40(2)(b)(iv); Convention on the Rights of the Child General Comment No. 10, paras 56-58; Convention against torture, art. 15; ICCPR, art 14(3)(g) and (4); Geneva IV, art. 31


Access to legal representation and parents during interrogation, and audio-visual recording of all interrogations

There must be independent scrutiny of the methods of interrogation. This should include the presence of a lawyer and relative or legal guardian and audio- visual recording of all interrogations involving children.

CRC, art 40(2)(b)(ii) and (iv); Convention on the Rights of the Child General Comment No. 10, para 58; ICCPR, art 14(3)(b); HRC General Comment No. 20, para 11; HRC Concluding Observations, Israel (29 July 2010), ICCPR/C/IsR/ CO/3, para 22; Convention against torture, art. 2; UN Committee against torture, General Comment No. 2, para 14, and Concluding Observations, Israel (14 May 2009), CAt/C/IsR/ CO/4, paras 15, 16, 27 and 28


Right to be brought before a judge and to challenge the legality of the detention

A child should be brought before a judge within 24 hours of detention. The legality of continued detention should be reviewed by a judge every two weeks. A child has the right to challenge the legality of the detention.

CRC, art. 37(d); Convention on the Rights of the Child General Comment No. 10, paras. 52 and 83; ICCPR art. 9 (3) and (4); Human Rights Council General Comment No. 8, para 2


Exclusion of all evidence obtained by torture

Any statement that is established to have been made as a result of torture or ill-treatment shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceeding.


Israel has signed both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture.  In addition, Israel’s Supreme Court in 1999 ruled that torture, inhuman or degrading treatment was prohibited in interrogations.


Children and the Israeli Military Detention System.  The territory occupied by Israel in 1967 is under military law.  Over the years more than a thousand military orders have been promulgated by military commanders on a range of issues, according to the UNICEF report.  But it is Military Order 1651 (, incorporating several previous orders, that is most pertinent.   Under the order the maximum penalty for throwing stones, the offense for which most children are prosecuted, is 10 years in prison.  The order also details the operations of a Juvenile Military Court, [Article G] which may be the only such court in the world.


UNICEF and others have raised a number of concerns about the court. 

  • Military juvenile judges are to receive special training, but several provisions in the order allow children to be tried in adult court by judges who have not been trained.
  • Minors are to be separated from adults during hearings and transport to and from the court—but only “to the extent possible.”
  • Children are treated as adults regarding the time during which they can be denied access to a lawyer and the guidelines governing release on bail.

No Legal Frontiers, a website maintained by the Public Committee against Torture in Israel, also noted that the military orders do not have the same protections for children as does Israeli civil law.  Thus, Palestinian children under Israeli occupation and Israeli children living in nearby settlements are prosecuted under two different sets of laws.  “There is no doubt that in criminal proceedings protection of the rights of Palestinian minors who live in the West Bank, is still far from the minimum standards fixed by Israeli and international law.”(


A graphic comparison of the treatment of Israeli and Palestinian children under two sets of laws is here.