Jerusalem // Israeli politicians on Wednesday approved jailing children as young as 12 convicted of “terrorist offences” drawing condemnation from human rights groups.
Israel says the Youth Bill is in response to months of violence which has killed at least 218 Palestinians and 34 Israelis. Israel claims most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife attacks but Palestinians say Israel’s heavy handed response has amounted to summary executions of dozens of young Palestinians. Other youths have been shot dead during protests and clashes with security forces.
“The ‘Youth Bill,’ which will allow the authorities to imprison a minor convicted of serious crimes such as murder, attempted murder or manslaughter even if he or she is under the age of 14, passed its second and third readings ... Tuesday night,” an English-language statement from Israel’s parliament said.
It added that the seriousness of attacks in recent months “demands a more aggressive approach, including toward minors.”
Israeli rights group B’Tselem criticised the bill and Israel’s treatment of Palestinian youths.
“Rather than sending them to prison, Israel would be better off sending them to school where they could grow up in dignity and freedom not under occupation,” it said.
Military law, applied to Palestinian residents of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, already allows imprisonment of 12-year-olds.