Study: Children struggle to cope after Israeli detention

Maan News Agency | March 21, 2012

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Thousands of Palestinian children struggle with mental health problems and reintegration into society after they are detained by Israel, a new report on child detention says.

According to the study released by Save the Children Sweden and YMCA-East Jerusalem on Monday, 90.6 percent of detained children suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after release.

Released minors often are unable to return to school, experience bed-wetting, anxiety attacks and nightmares, the report says. Families and communities suffer from stigmatization, and become increasingly conservative as fear grows of further detentions, it adds.

“Detention is especially stressful for a child, their coping mechanism is not developed yet,” Save the Children’s Kete Shabani said at the report launch in Ramallah. Last year, the youngest child seized by Israel forces was seven years old, and around 700 children are detained every year, she added.

Yousef al-Dusuqi, from Jerusalem, told reporters his detention last November was “terrorizing”.

Heavily armed forces broke into his home, dragging him from bed at 3 a.m. al-Dusuqi, who was 16 at the time, recounted. “I asked to say goodbye to my family, they refused.”

“They started hitting and verbally assaulting us in the military jeep. Afterward we got to the interrogation room … they hit me in order to extract information, they wanted me to confess to certain things.”

“After that they put me in prison. I just wished to see the sun,” he said. The teen was freed weeks later in the second part of a prisoner exchange with Israel.

Despite amendments to Israeli military regulations for child detention in October 2011, the report says the arbitrary arrest and detention of children continues in violation of international law.

“Nowhere else in the world are children systematically tried before military courts so unsuited for their needs,” said UNICEF child protection chief Saudamini Siegrist.

The report calls on Israel to detain children only as a last resort, for the shortest time possible, and meet the interests of the child, in line with international obligations.

It also urges the Palestinian Authority to improve its juvenile justice system and improve information collection and reintegration programs for child detainees.

“The Palestinian Authority should put all its focus into helping children reintegrate into society,” YMCA director Nader Abu Amsha said.

Muhammad al-Bata, a representative of the PA Ministry of Detainee Affairs, told reporters: “We cannot force Israel to change its policies — this is a political issue, and the child is the victim.”



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