Jeanie Lucas (SA) writes to FM Kevin Rudd re Israel’s treatment of Palestinian child prisoners 30Nov11 November 30, 2011

Dear Mr Rudd

It was with utter astonishment that I read the article Stone Cold Justice, by John Lyons in The Australian on 26 November. This article described the treatment by the Israeli military of Palestinian children accused of throwing stones in or around the Israeli settlements in Palestine. It also featured the activities of an Australian lawyer, Gerard Horton, who works to represent these children when they are dealt with by Israeli military courts.

The journalist described treatment of these children by the Israeli military authorities such as ankle shackling, threats of rape, sleep deprivation, physical abuse, intimidation using military dogs, invasions by the Israeli Army of villages in the early hours of the morning to intimate these children and their families: seemingly unbridled human rights abuses of children accused of throwing stones. I am amazed that these children are dealt with by a military system and court instead of a civilian system, where petty offences of this nature should be addressed.

Of further concern was the statement in this article that

Australian diplomats have shown no obvious interest in the military courts despite our Ambassador to Israel, Andrea Faulkner, being told about the treatment of children a year ago. She refused to comment on the situation for this story. Says Horton: “It is disappointing that of all the diplomatic missions in the region, Australia has been conspicuously silent on the issue of the military courts.”

I have understood Australia to be a champion of human rights in the world community. I know that we have signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. We have imbued all of our child welfare laws with the principles in this fundamental international instrument. We go out of our way to challenge other countries in international fora when we see and document abuses against children in other parts of the world. Indeed, in visiting the DFAT website I see that

Australia promotes and protects human rights at home and abroad

Australia’s commitment to human rights is enduring: we were an original signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sixty years ago. We have been a leading proponent of its consistent and comprehensive implementation.
Protection and promotion of the human rights encapsulated in the Declaration is vital to global efforts to achieve lasting peace and security, and freedom and dignity for all.
Australia’s commitment to the aims and purposes of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reflects our national values and is an underlying principle of Australia’s engagement with the international community.

Promoting human rights

Australia is a principled advocate of human rights for all:
·        party to all landmark human rights treaties and committed to promoting their universal adherence and implementation

·        delivering practical initiatives to promote human rights, including through a dedicated Human Rights Fund for bilateral and regional activities

·        engaging constructively in human rights dialogues and exchanges with individual countries, in particular within Australia’s region.

If Australia is a principled advocate of human rights for all and committed to promoting universal adherence and implementation of all landmark human rights treaties, how is it that Australian diplomats in Israel, according to The Australian article, show “no obvious interest in the military courts despite our Ambassador to Israel, Andrea Faulkner, being told about the treatment of children a year ago”?

If we are interested in promoting and protecting human rights at home and abroad and our commitment to human rights is enduring, how can it be that the Australian Government makes no statement whatsoever about Israel’s treatment of these children?

Israel is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and we appear to not bother that Israel is seemingly ignoring what it has signed up to do – protect the rights of children – and appears to be actually violating this treaty.

It is astounding that children are treated in this way by a state that claims to be a democracy. And it is further astounding that we, the principled advocate of human rights for all, say nothing.
How is this so?

I would appreciate your view about what Australia’s role should be in this matter and to hear about what instructions the Australian Government will be giving to Australian diplomats in Israel about taking action about this appalling situation.

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