By Julian Hattem – 06/23/15 06:26 PM EDT
A group of 18 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 â€œcruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishmentâ€ in Israel military detention facilities.â€œ[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,â€ Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and 17 of her colleagues wrote. â€œFurthermore, we fully expect the State Department to address the status of Israelâ€™s military detention systemâ€™s treatment of Palestinian children in its annual human rights report.â€
The letter was sent Friday but made public Tuesday.
According to a 2013 report from the U.N. Childrenâ€™s Fund (UNICEF), about 700 Palestinian teenagers are arrested and detained by the Israeli army every year. Some of them are subjected to â€œcruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,â€ it claimed.Â
UNICEF found that many children are awakened in the middle of the night, tied and blindfolded before being brought to an interrogation center â€œin a state of extreme fearâ€ and often without being told of their right to legal aide.
A followup report from February found Israel had â€œtaken a series of initiativesâ€ to respond to the report but had not finalized many of the recommendations.Â
Kerry is scheduled to release the State Departmentâ€™s annual human rights report at the State Department on Thursday morning.