Ramallah, July 26, 2016—Israeli authorities held increasing numbers of Palestinian children in solitary confinement for interrogation purposes in the first half of 2016.
From January through June, Israeli authorities held at least 13 Palestinian children in solitary confinement for two or more days, compared to a total of 15 cases during 2015, according to documentation collected by Defense for Children International - Palestine. The longest period of confinement documented so far in 2016 involves a 16-year-old boy from the West Bank village of Ya’bad, near Jenin, who spent 22 days in isolation.
“Israeli authorities apparently use isolation to create a psychologically compelling situation for the child detainee, and then vulnerability increases when access to legal counsel is denied,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCIP. “The practice of using solitary confinement on children, for any duration, is a clear violation of international law, as it amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and in some cases, torture.”
Israeli forces arrested Rami K., 17, on March 27 as he returned home to the West Bank city of Nablus. Soldiers physically and verbally assaulted Rami while illegally transporting him to a detention center inside Israel. Upon arrival, he was placed in solitary confinement.
“The cell was so small it barely fit the mattress that was on the floor,” Rami told DCIP. “Living conditions were very harsh. The cell was closed tightly and had no windows, except two ventilations gaps. The walls were gray, which hurt my eyes, and the surface was coarse, so I could not lean on them. The cell had a sink and a toilet, but the toilet had a nasty smell. The lights were on the entire time.”
Rami was held in solitary confinement for interrogation purposes for a total of 16 days, including three days in Megiddo prison. He estimates that he was interrogated for a total of 45 hours over several days, sometimes violently, with his hands and feet bound to a metal chair standing just a few inches above the ground. While at Megiddo, Rami was placed in a section with informants.
On June 7, Rami was sentenced to 10 months in prison, handed an 18-month suspended sentence, and fined 3,000 NIS (US $780). He faces another three months in prison if his family cannot pay the fine.
Between 2012 and 2015, DCIP documented 66 cases involving the solitary confinement of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system. The use of isolation by Israeli authorities does not appear to be related to any disciplinary, protective, or medical rationale or justification and is not generally used after children have been convicted and begun serving their sentences. During this time, children typically only interact with Israeli prison guards during routine counts and room inspections.
Evidence and documentation collected by DCIP overwhelmingly suggest that the use of isolation for Palestinian child detainees is solely for interrogation purposes to obtain a confession and/or gather intelligence or information on other individuals.
The practice of using solitary confinement against children in Israeli military detention, whether in pretrial detention for interrogation purposes or as a form of punishment, must be stopped immediately and the prohibition must be enshrined in law.
Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes between 500 and 700 children in military courts each year that lack fundamental fair trial rights.