Since 1974, when the first Palestinian prisoner was released in an exchange deal, Palestinians have been commemorating April 17 as the Palestinian Prisoners Day to shed light on the plight of prisoners in Israeli jails.
Currently, there are 6,500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. The number includes 300 children and 53 women, according to the Jerusalem-based Palestinian prisoners support and human rights association, Addameer. Laith Abu Zeyad, Addameer’s international advocacy officer told Al Jazeera that between 500 and 700 arrests of children are made each year in the Israeli-occupied West Bank .
Upon arrest, Palestinian civilians residing in the West Bank are sent to be tried in Israeli military courts, where conviction rates are as high as 99.7 percent, according to Abu Zeyad. Being tried in a military tribunal is a violation of international law, and means that civilians’ due process rights are routinely disrespected.
Meanwhile, administrative detainees are arrested based on Israeli military intelligence data, to which the detainee has no access. Administrative detainees can be held without charge or trial for six months at a time, and their detention can be indefinitely renewed.
A joint report issued by several Palestinian non-governmental organisations ( NGOs ) indicated that 509 arrests were made in March 2017 alone, including 75 children. “The most common accusation made against children is throwing stones,” said Zeyad.
Last year marked the worst on record for child prisoners. A change in Israeli laws allowed Palestinian minors under the age of 14 to be sent straight to prison, instead of receiving custodian sentences. In 2016, 21 minors were under administrative detention. In the same year, a wave of Palestinian children received lengthy sentences, some amounting to more than 10 years of imprisonment.