Dems tell Kerry: Don’t ignore Palestinian children

Dems tell Kerry: Don’t ignore Palestinian children
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A group of 19 Democratic lawmakers are urging the State Department to do all it can to make Israel give better treatment to Palestinian children held in detention.

After repeated concerns from a United Nations agency, the lawmakers recently wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry telling him to prioritize the hundreds of Palestinian children suffering “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment” in Israel military detention facilities.

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“[W]e urge the Department of State to elevate the human rights of Palestinian children to a priority status in our bilateral relationship with the government of Israel,” Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and 18 of her colleagues wrote. “Furthermore, we fully expect the State Department to address the status of Israel’s military detention system’s treatment of Palestinian children in its annual human rights report.”

The letter was sent Friday but made public Tuesday.

According to a 2013 report from the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), about 700 Palestinian teenagers are arrested and detained by the Israeli army every year. Some of them are subjected to “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” it claimed. 

UNICEF found that many children are awakened in the middle of the night, tied and blindfolded before being brought to an interrogation center “in a state of extreme fear” and often without being told of their right to legal aide.

A followup report from February found Israel had “taken a series of initiatives” to respond to the report but had not finalized many of the recommendations. 

Kerry is scheduled to release the State Department’s annual human rights report at the State Department on Thursday morning.

Updated to correct the number of people signing the letter on June 24.