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Ahed Tamimi is free; now Israel must free all other Palestinian children it has jailed Open in fullscreen

Florence Dixon

Ahed Tamimi is free; now Israel must free all other Palestinian children it has jailed

Some 300 Palestinian children remain behind bars [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 July, 2018

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Nearly 300 Palestinian children still languish in Israeli prisons, subject to rampant abuse and coerced into confession in the only country in the world that prosecutes children in military courts.
As newly released Ahed Tamimi was busy fielding calls from world leaders, all wanting to claim a piece of her for their own personal brand, the newly crowned resistance icon was all too aware of her fellow inmates she left behind in military jail.

Despite Tamimi's high-profile return to the resistance scene being a cause for celebration, some 291 children remain vulnerable to the whims of contemptuous jailers in Israeli military prisons. Three of them are in administrative detention, being held for months on end without charge.

Israel tries around 500-700 Palestinian children a year in military courts, the only country in the world to automatically prosecute minors in such a way.

According to Defense for Children International, Israeli military interrogators use position abuse, threats and solitary confinement to coerce confessions from children. A 2017 report by Military Court Watch said that two-thirds of minors who testified on their detention said they were subject to physical abuse and violence.

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And it doesn't stop there. Ahed Tamimi herself, while she was being interrogated - aged 17 - was sexually harassed by her interrogator who made persistent creepy remarks. "You have eyes like an angel," he told her.

It is no great wonder there is a 99.7 percent conviction rate for Palestinian defendants in Israeli military courts. Making children "own up" to trumped-up accusations of what were barely crimes in the first place in order to "negotiate" a shorter sentence - otherwise known as a plea deal - is often the only way to put a stop to cycles of physical and psychological torment.

Lest we forget the stories of other detained children, such as Abdel Raouf al-Bilawi and Razan Abu Sal, both sentenced to jail in January at only 13 years old for throwing stones at Israeli forces conducting full-scale military incursions in their towns.

Let us neither allow Israel's mistreatment of children to obscure the horrors faced by imprisoned minors in the rest of the world. According to Amnesty, at least 80 people are currently on death row in Iran for crimes that took place when they were under 18 years of age. In Saudi Arabia, children can be tried for capital crimes and sentenced as adults if they display any physical signs of puberty.

Since 2010, Egypt, Iran, the Maldives, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Yemen have all handed the death penalty to young people.

As Tamimi said upon her release on Sunday: "My freedom is incomplete without the freedom of other detainees who stood beside me and supported me throughout my detention and I hope they will be freed soon."


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