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October 05, 2002

UN panel faults Israel for treatment of minority, Palestinian children

But for all the complaints, this article notes that the UN is at long last beginning to realize that suicide bombers are not nice people!

GENEVA - UN human rights experts said Friday that Israel must stop discrimination against minority children within the country.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child said it also was concerned about Israeli treatment of Palestinian children in the occupied territories even though it recognizes there is a "climate of fear" resulting from "continuing acts of terror."

Israeli Ambassador Ya'akov Levy said he had objections to some of the committee's findings, but he praised the panel for being the first UN body to use the term "Palestinian suicide bombers" in its condemnation of terrorism.

The committee of 10 independent experts was commenting after its review of Israel's compliance with the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. The panel periodically reviews the performance of all 191 countries that have signed the treaty.

It said it was concerned that Israel lacks a constitutional guarantee of nondiscrimination, and urged the government to carry out public education campaigns "to ensure that all children enjoy all the rights set out in the convention without discrimination."

It said it was concerned about "inequalities" in access to education, health care and social services for Israeli Arabs, Bedouins, Ethiopians and other minorities as well as disabled and foreign children.

The committee urged Israel "to take all possible measures to reconcile the interpretation of religious laws with fundamental human rights" to make sure boys and girls are treated equally.

It noted Israel's efforts to address the rights and special needs of children with disabilities. "However, it remains concerned at the large gap between the needs and services provided, and the gap between services provided to Jewish and Israeli-Arab children."

In presenting Israel's report, Levy had told the panel that the Israeli government had undertaken a number of reforms in children's rights and was still trying to raise public awareness to enhance their well-being, irrespective of their ethnic, geographic or religious background.

The panel said it "deeply regrets" that Israel failed to provide any information about the situation of children in occupied Palestinian territories. The Israeli government says it has transferred the responsibility for reporting on the territories to the Palestinian authority, but the panel rejected this argument.

"It's the opinion of this committee that the State of Israel is responsible for all children within its jurisdiction and 'within its jurisdiction' means including the Palestinian territory," said Committee Chairman Jacob Doek of the Netherlands.

Doek said the panel objected to the way the Israeli government defines children in the occupied territories as being under 16 while children in Israel are defined as under 18.

"This is discriminatory" because it leads to such results as the jailing of 16-year-old Palestinian stone throwers with adult inmates, Doek said.

The committee said it "deeply regrets the killings and injuries of all children" in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and urged all responsible to end the violence.

The climate of fear results from "acts of terror on both sides, especially the deliberate and indiscriminate targeting and killing of Israeli civilians, including children, by Palestinian suicide-bombers," it said.

It said it recognized Israel's right to live in peace and security, but that "the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, the bombing of civilian areas (and) extrajudicial killings ... continue to contribute to the cycle of violence."

It said it was "seriously concerned" about the allegations of "inhuman and degrading practices, torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian children by police officers during arrest, interrogation and in detention."

Levy said the Israeli government disagreed with the committees "characterizations of Israeli defensive action against terror, definitions that are not within the purview of the committees mandate."

source: LINK