Mistreatment of Palestinian young people detained by the Israeli military is "widespread, systematic and institutionalised," UN children's agency Unicef said today.
Over the past decade Israeli forces have arrested, interrogated and prosecuted around 7,000 Palestinians aged 12-17.
In the Israeli military court system used to process the children Unicef found evidence of "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment."
"In no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing guarantees to ensure respect for their rights," it said.
The vast majority of arrests were for throwing stones and, although the maximum sentence for children of 12 and 13 is six months, the penalty rises dramatically from the age of 14, when a child can face a maximum of between 10 and 20 years.
Unicef said the common experience of many children was being "aggressively awakened in the middle of the night by many armed soldiers and being forcibly brought to an interrogation centre tied and blindfolded, sleep deprived and in a state of extreme fear."
Many were subjected to ill-treatment during the journey, with some suffering physical or verbal abuse, being painfully restrained or forced to lie on the floor of a vehicle for a transfer process of between an hour and a day.
Unicef found no evidence of detainees being "accompanied by a lawyer or family member during the interrogation" and they were "rarely informed of their rights."
"Children have been threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault, against themselves or a family member," it said.
It also found children had been held in solitary confinement for between two days and a month before being taken to court.
During court hearings, children were in leg chains and shackles, and in most cases "the principal evidence against the child is the child's own confession, in most cases extracted under duress," it found.
"Ultimately, almost all children plead guilty in order to reduce the length of their detention.
"Pleading guilty is the quickest way to be released.
"In short, the system does not allow children to defend themselves," Unicef concluded.
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