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Juvenile Police

Children have specialized police units under the 2016 Juvenile Protection Law. Article 15 states that: “The gathering of information with regard to juvenile cases or children under the risk of delinquency is carried out by a specialized police in each district ... . Specialized child police would be designated by a decision of the Minister of Interior. It shall comprise female officers.” This article legalized the de facto existence of specialized police over the past few years. A form of specialized juvenile police was set up by a decision of the Police Commissioner in 2009 in four cities and was extended to the rest of the West Bank in 2011.[1] In 2014, juvenile police was merged with the “Family Protection and Juvenile Police Unit.”[2] The adoption of the new Juvenile Law turned the presence of juvenile police into a de jure existence.

As in other countries, it is “the police officer who has first contact with the majority of delinquent boys.”[3] Such contact starts with the arrest, continues during the investigation period, and lasts throughout detention awaiting trial.[4] Both arrest and pretrial detention are dealt with in Palestine in accordance with the Criminal Procedures Law No. 3 of 12 May 2001.[5] The 2016 Juvenile Law refers to the Criminal Procedures Law with regard to the arrest and detention in an identical way to that of adults. There are, however, a few exceptions by which children are treated differently. Juvenile Law requires that minors to be separated from adults while in detention,[6] at court rooms while awaiting trials, and during the transportation to attend court hearings or from one detention to another, or after concluding court sessions.[7] The Law also underlined the obligation of to provide children, upon arrest, with sociopsychological support. In this connection, Article 18 prescribed that “if the child is arrested by the police in cases of flagrante offence, the child should be immediately transferred to the juvenile police.” This police should then “notify the child’s guardian and the child protection officer.” The juvenile police may retain the child maximum for 24 h before transferring him to the prosecution.

The Criminal Procedures Law deals with arrest in ten articles.[8] It stipulates that “no person may be arrested or imprisoned except by order of the competent authority as designated by law. He must be treated in a manner that will preserve his dignity and may not be physically or morally harmed” (Article 29). It further regulates the arrest in cases of flagrant offence, arrest warrant, resisting arrest, and attempt to escape, etc.

It would be useful to develop specific procedures for the arrest of children. To this effect, a regulation by the Council of Ministers or instructions by the Minister of Interior regarding juvenile police may incorporate procedures on the treatment of children. These procedures need to comprise, inter alia, the arrest of children in nonviolent means by special police without uniforms and with the presence of a social worker or a psychologist, use civilian cars, prohibit arrest at night or weekends, and make the arrest subject to judicial decision with minimal exceptions. In August 2014, a manual for the police interaction with children which incorporates most of these procedures was developed.[9] Ideally, and with a view to remove any overlapping, the juvenile police should have been placed under the Ministry of Social Development, as the Ministry of Interior is accustomed to deal with security, rather than social, matters.

Children in pretrial detention are held at police facilities. In certain areas, including one Hebron police station and Dar Al-Amal, children stay in detention facilities designated for juveniles.[10] In the north of the West Bank, children are detained in ordinary prisons,[11] with some reports of mixing children with adults.[12] The Law generally bans child’s detention. When it is exceptionally exercised, “the prosecution shall order the juvenile’s detention to be in a care institution.”[13] However, the Law added that “where care institutions are missing, children shall be held in a place designated for juveniles.”[14] In practice, holding children in detentions is virtually the rule and juveniles will continue to be detained until care institutions see light.[15] Until the opening of the care institutions, children should not be left to face their destiny. Better places can be found, for instance, by renting locations on temporary basis. The current child detention centers are generally poor.[16]

The specialized juvenile police needs institutionalization by sitting up legal basis, for example, by introducing provisions on specialized police in regulations or instructions based on the 2016 Law. Coordination between the Ministry of Social Development and the police might be arrived at by an agreement to be reached between the two sides. Police should receive ongoing training on computerized case management systems and be exposed to models of good practices from other countries.[17] Jordan set up in 2008 juvenile police offices in a number of stations in the capital Amman,[18] so this experience might benefit the promising Palestinian juvenile police.

  • [1] Defense for Children International, Juvenile Police in Palestine ... , supra note 7, p. 36.
  • [2] Ibid., p. 37.
  • [3] Masaharu Yanagimoto, “The Juvenile Delinquent in Japan,” 13 British Journal of Criminology170 (1973), p. 170.
  • [4] William Kerr, “How the Police Can Prevent Juvenile Crime,” 10 Police Journal 306 (1937); RalphS. Boot, “Police Interest in Juvenile Delinquency,” 6 Canadian Journal of Corrections 50 (1964);Joseph Simpson, “The Police and Juvenile Delinquency,” 8 British Journal of Criminology 119(1968).
  • [5] Palestine Gazette No. 38, 5 September 2001, p. 94.
  • [6] Article 23(1).
  • [7] Article 21(3).
  • [8] Articles 29 to 38.
  • [9] Defense for Children International, Juvenile Police in Palestine ... , supra note 7, pp. 38-39.
  • [10] Ibid., pp. 49 and 51.
  • [11] Ibid., pp. 39-51.
  • [12] Ibid., p. 45: “In Nablus children are detained with adults in the same rooms.”
  • [13] Article 20(1).
  • [14] Article 20(4).
  • [15] Cf. J. Walker & A. Glasner, “The Process of Juvenile Detention: The Training School Act, theChild Welfare Act,” 3 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 343 (1965).
  • [16] Defense for Children International, Incarceration Places for Children in Conflict with the Law inthe West Bank between International Standards and Practice (Ramallah 2013).
  • [17] Simha Landau, “Juveniles and the Police—Who is Charged Immediately and who is Referred tothe Juvenile Bureau,” 21 British Journal of Criminology 27 (1981).
  • [18] Terre des hommes-Lausanne, Assessment of the Juvenile Justice System in Jordan (Amman 2010).
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