United Nations Questions Israel’s Use Of Solitary Confinement Of Palestinian Prisoners

Palestinians hold pictures of prisoners and Palestinian flags as they celebrate the end of a prisoners’ hunger strike in Israeli jails, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Monday, May 14, 2012. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MAJDI MOHAMMED
Palestinians hold pictures of prisoners and Palestinian flags as they celebrate the end of a prisoners’ hunger strike in Israeli jails, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Monday, May 14, 2012. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MAJDI MOHAMMED

The United Nations Committee Against Torture questioned an Israeli delegation over the country’s prevalent use of solitary confinement, particularly against Palestinian prisoners, after reports that the number of cases in Israeli jails nearly doubled from 2012 to 2014.

Solitary confinement, which is regularly used against Palestinian prisoners, including children, is likened to a form of torture by the UN, with many experts calling to “ban the solitary confinement of prisoners except in very exceptional circumstances and for as short a time as possible, with an absolute prohibition in the case of juveniles and people with mental disabilities.”

The UN’s lead questioner, Jens Modvig, said the number of people held in isolation went from 390 to 755 in those two years. Modvig also asked about reports related to Palestinian women detained in Israeli jails, who are allegedly subject to “verbal sexual harassment, repeated strip searches and forms of genital violence.”

In March, Physicians for Human Rights — Israel (PHRI) released a report condemning solitary confinement by Israeli forces against Palestinians, who are tried under a separate legal system from Israelis.

“The group reported that Israeli doctors condone the mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners — particularly those in solitary confinement — as a matter of routine, in violation of medical ethics and international law that in some cases equates solitary confinement to torture,” the Ma’an News Agency reported.

The report said that the Israeli Prison Services (IPS) must take responsibility and change their policies toward prisoners.

“It is our opinion that it is the duty of the Ministry of Public Security and the IPS to maintain the health of those placed in their custody,” the report said. “The state cannot go on ignoring the devastating effects of solitary confinement on prisoners, which is why it must act to eradicate this harmful practice and desist from the use of solitary confinement as a pressure tool serving political and punitive purposes and as a tool for handling individuals with mental-health problems.”