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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomes Pope Francis to the United Nations headquarters in New York Sept. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-UN Sept. 25, 2015.

Campaign to free children from Israeli jails

Human rights groups have launched an international campaign to free Palestinian children from Israeli jails.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society launched the ‘Give Them Space to Learn and Play’ in association with the state’s Ministry of Education.

The society is encouraging Palestinian schoolchildren, and others, to write letters to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (above with Pope Francis), telling him about how Israeli violations affected their lives since upheaval in the region from October this year. As a result of this upheaval, 345 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli forces and a recent report by Defense for Children International-Palestine found that ‘86 percent of Palestinian children experienced some form of physical violence during their arrest or interrogation,’ during the first half of 2014.

“Ill treatment of Palestinian children remains widespread and systematic in the Israeli military detention system as children arrested by Israeli forces arrive at Israeli interrogation centers blindfolded, bound and sleep deprived,” the group writes.

Palestinian children are not protected by the Israeli law against the detention of children under 14, and many Palestinians see this as a form of discrimination.

The plight of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons was first brought to attention in 2012, after British lawyers and MPs visited the region in 2011 and found at least six breaches of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to the Children in Military Custody report, the delegation stated that the child prisoners were not separated from adult prisoners, did not receive immediate access to lawyers and were shackled.

“It may be that much of the reluctance to treat Palestinian children in conformity with international standards stems from a belief, which was advanced to us by a military prosecutor, that every Palestinian child is a potential terrorist,” the report finds.

“Such a stance seems to us to be the starting point of a spiral of injustice and one which only Israel, as the Occupying Power in the West Bank, can reverse.”

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