Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Statement by the Palestinian Network for Children's Rights on Palestinian Child Day
For the past few years, this day – Palestinian Child Day – has become synonymous with grief and pain. On the 5 April each year, Palestinian children have searched for their childhood and sought to renew their broken dreams. The event revives memories of their suffering and the suffering of their friends at the hands of the Israeli occupation. Since April 2002, when Israeli troops launched the largest military campaign against Palestinian civilians across the West Bank, the level of suffering increased. The campaign resulted in the killing, arrest, injury and bereavement of scores of children; and in the months and years that have followed, these violations have been repeated time and again across the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
This year, the circumstances surrounding Palestinian Child Day are no different – our children continue to feel the pain of occupation. Israeli forces continue to deprive children of their right to life – since the start of this year alone, 12 children have been killed, bringing to 740 the total number of children fatalities since the start of the intifada. In the same period, around 4,000 minors have been arrested, of whom some 400 are still in prison.
This Palestinian Child Day, we highlight the particular concern of ongoing Israeli practices and pressure against our children in the Gaza Strip. Despite the physical withdrawal of the Israeli military from Gaza last August – much hailed by the international media and politicians – the area remains a giant open-air prison with Israeli forces controlling all exit and entry points. The Israeli authorities have kept sealed for most of this year the only cargo crossing point into Gaza, and at the risk of triggering a humanitarian catastrophe, have prevented food and medical supplies from entering the strip. It is unacceptable that the Israeli authorities use the lives and rights of Palestinian children as a political bargaining tool and we call on the UN and international community to exert pressure on the Israeli government to stop these illegal and unethical practices.
In the West Bank, Israeli actions consistently and systematically violate the special rights protections provided for children under both international human rights and humanitarian law. Specifically, the repeated military incursions into areas in the West Bank and the continued construction of the separation wall undermine the rights of children to education, adequate standard of living, healthcare and the right to life.
As such, the Palestinian Network for Children's Rights urges the international community and the States Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to abide by their obligations to protect children's rights without discrimination. We also ask the international community to pressure the Israeli government to abide by its obligations under international law through ceasing at once all violations against Palestinian children and implementing immediately the concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child regarding the applicability of the CRC on the OPT.
On the internal level, as members of the Palestinian community, we too must act to protect, respect and implement Palestinian children's rights. One year ago, the Palestinian Child Law entered into force. We must now join together to push for the law to be implemented, and for bylaws to be issued specifying the scope and responsibility of each ministry in fulfilling its part in relation to this law.
Moreover, we call on the Palestinian Legislative Council to accelerate the enactment of the Juvenile Justice Law. This must be a priority, for without this children in conflict with the law will continue to suffer due to an of absence legislation guaranteeing their protection and their best interests.
Childhood should not be regarded as a preparatory stage for adulthood. It is an independent developmental stage which all children should experience. Today, we, as members of the Palestinian community, should work to transform this Palestinian Child Day into an occasion of fun and hope through encouraging respect for our children and their rights.
The Palestinian Network for Children's Rights is a coalition of 55 organisations working with children. It is led by Defence for Children International/Palestine Section.
Please call, email and write Israel's Ambassador to the United States and demand that Israel adhere to the UN Conventions on the Right of the Child.
Daniel Ayalon, Israel's Ambassador to the United States
3514 International Dr. N.W.
Washington DC 20008
Defense for Children International/Palestine Section
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