UN envoy slams Israel for jailing kids

Says detention feeds violence; 371 Palestinians under 18 in Israeli prisons.

kids, hamas flags (photo credit: AP)
kids, hamas flags
(photo credit: AP)
A UN envoy said Thursday that Israel's detention of Palestinian children and denial of proper trials are "a problem" that feeds the violence in the region. The UN's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflicts, Radhika Coomaraswamy, said she visited Hasharon prison in central Israel, where she said more than 150 minors are held for security and criminal offenses. She said she urged Israeli officials to consider rehabilitation instead of detention for children detained on minor charges. Some 398 children 12 years or older are held in Israeli jails, she said. This week the Israeli Prisons Authority said 371 Palestinian children under 18 are in prisons. "The process they are subject to is a military process ... and not a judicial process. That is something that we feel is a problem," she said. "I think children are getting very hard and bitter through this experience." Coomaraswamy met with four children in the prison, including one held without trial. A 12-year-old and a 16-year-old were jailed for throwing firebombs, she said. "My sense is this kind of detention practice is feeding the cycle of violence." Coomaraswamy said she met with Palestinian children in refugee camps and Israeli children in Sderot, an Israeli town next to Gaza that is a frequent target of rockets fired by Palestinian militants. She said she found children from both sides "extremely despaired," but all expressed hope for peace. Also, Coomaraswamy said she asked Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to hand over to the UN technical teams computer generated data for cluster bomblets used during the Lebanon war. She said general data for the cluster bombs were passed on, but that was not enough to locate them. The United Nations and human rights groups say that Israel dropped about 4 million cluster bomblets on Lebanon during the war, and up to 1 million failed to explode. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel would continue to cooperate with the UN on the matter. Since the war ended on Aug. 14, such ordnance has killed 29 people and injured another 215 - 90 of them children, according to the UN. "There is a computer sheet that is generated when targets are attacked. If (UN technical teams) get that information they can identify where the cluster munitions are," she said.