January 26, 2012
Letter in the Guardian:
We applaud Harriet Sherman for bringing the violation of Palestinian children's rights to the attention of your readers (Alone and bewildered, the boy in Cell 36, 23 January). We recently visited Jerusalem and the West Bank as members of the British Association of Social Workers, and heard many similar accounts. We also witnessed the horrific sight of Palestinian children being led into a military courtroom in handcuffs and leg-irons, and saw a diminutive 14-year-old being sentenced to three and a half months in prison, together with a large fine, for allegedly throwing stones at Israeli soldiers. The Israeli prison service's justification for the use of such restraints strikes us as incredible. In a context of the utmost security, it was impossible to see the necessity of such inhuman shackling of a child. Seeing this boy's bewilderment and tearful face as he looked across to his mother is something that we will not forget in a long time.
What we witnessed were clear breaches of the human rights of children under international law. We believe, given our professional code of ethics, that we have a duty as social workers to do whatever is in our power to highlight this issue and to promote the rights of those children who are affected. We call upon other social workers to do the same, including within Israel.
Guy Shennan, David Harrop, Sarah Sturge, Rupert Franklin-Lester
Members of the British Association of Social Workers