NGO Comments on the Initial Israeli State Report on Implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

NGO Comments on the Initial Israeli State Report on Implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Lawmaking to Promote Children’s Rights, Ongoing Discrimination, and Many Serious Violations

The Israeli section of Defense for Children International (DCI-Israel), in consultation with members of the Israeli Children’s Rights Coalition which includes more than 60 NGOs, herewith submits an NGO (‘alternative’) report in accordance with Article 45 of the CRC.

The essential context of this report, for which DCI-Israel takes responsibility, is the period of ongoing violence in which the State of Israel is presently engaged and the consequent preference afforded to security as against other aspects of life in the country. The issue of children’s rights is particularly sensitive to the priority afforded to security needs: unfortunately, the demands of security tend to hold back progress in the fulfillment of children’s rights since resources are inevitably directed primarily toward the military effort. Without a peaceful resolution of the conflict, it is the children who will tragically be among the main victims of the situation.

DCI-Israel and the Coalition believe that the Initial State Report was over-focused on legislation, with too little emphasis put on enforcement. In the area of lawmaking

many positive steps as regards children’s rights are being taken in Israel (for example the progressive legislation which allows a social worker to appear before a court instead of an abused child, so that the latter does not have to face his/her attacker)

However, the unfortunate reality in Israel is that the impact of progressive lawmaking is presently blunted because much of the legislation is passed but never implemented..

Moreover, much important legislation is still lacking. There is lack of constitutional social rights within Israel and in particular, the State lacks constitutional protection of its Arab minority.

The Coalition welcomes the establishment of the  Roth-Levy Committee, established in 1997 in order to harmonize the relevant  Israeli legislation,  examine the fundamental principles of relevant legislation concerning children, and the implementation of such legislation in light of the CRC.

In its totality, the CRC has not yet been made into the law of the land. The minimum standards that it lays down must be implemented before a detailed Children’s Rights Law will be presented by the Roth Levy Committee. Regardless of the current security situation, many important issues have been neglected, for example therapy for sexually and physically abused children, for which quite inadequate budgets are available.

The Initial State report recognizes that there exists discrimination against children of the Arab Israeli minority. The steps taken to remedy the situation have so far been far from satisfactory.  More radical steps must be taken by the government if this discrimination, expressed in education, health care, social services, etc. is to be eradicated. This applies to the whole Arab sector, whose population is growing rapidly, and in particular to the ‘unrecognized’ Bedouin villages

It must be noted that the Initial State Report devotes almost no attention to the situation of Palestinian children living in the occupied territories. Here there are reports by both Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations of serious violations of the CRC. The NGO Report discusses many such violations including the lethal use by the Israeli authorities of rubber-coated bullets or live ammunition against civilian populations, conditions of interrogation, house demolition, impeded access to health care and hospitals due to closure and roadblocks, etc.

Although the Palestinian Authority is not under review, since Israel is the state which is party to the CRC the Committee should bear in mind that there are many armed Palestinian groups who deliberately and indiscriminately attack civilians, including children, within Israel proper. Terror attacks and suicide bombing are gross violations of international, humanitarian and human rights laws, creating an atmosphere of fear and insecurity among children and adults alike. In our experience, they are also likely to cause a deterioration in areas like the interrogation by the authorities of minors.

The growing gap between rich and poor in Israeli society intensifies serious economic problems that directly affect children. While poverty denies children the chance to enjoy equal opportunities in life, in the year 2,000, one out of every four children in Israel were living under the poverty line. This growing problem has the gravest possible implications for these children in every aspect of life.

In spite of facing the possibility of an escalating armed conflict, with the resultant tension in the everyday lives of its citizens, Israel must focus consistently on promoting both human rights and children’s rights. DCI-Israel is conscious of  the obstacles to upholding the values of the CRC in the difficult conditions now pertaining in Israel. However, recent weeks have witnessed increasing examples of deterioration in the position of children as budgets relating to their welfare as cut in order to pay for the massive security needs.

The NGO Report can contribute to upholding international human rights standards. Indeed it can serve as a practical guide for Israeli implementation of the CRC in spite of the exigencies of the present situation.

Dr. Philip Veerman, Director of DCI-Israel and Coordinator of the Israeli Children’s Rights Coalition.

Jerusalem, April, 2002.


Read the full report here