Jerusalem24– The solitary confinement of 21-year-old Ahmad Manasra amounts to “torture and ill-treatment”, according to Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.
21-year-old Manasra was arrested as a 13-year-old boy in 2015 for carrying out a stabbing attack in which two Israelis were injured. His 15-year-old cousin Hassan Manasra was shot and killed by Israeli police during the same attack. Ahmad Manasra was sentenced in 2016 to 12 years in prison, later reduced to nine and a half years.
In an interview with Jerusalem24, Milena Ansari, International Advocacy Officer at Addameer, says that based on the convention against torture and ill-treatment, the deprivation of liberty in Manasra’s case under these circumstances clearly amounts to torture and ill-treatment.
On 18 May, a court hearing to extend Manasra’s solitary confinement for another six months was postponed, leaving him in solitary confinement until the next hearing on 15 June.
The use of modern-day solitary confinement dates back to the creation of the US carceral system, where the use of solitary confinement was utilized for the rehabilitation of prisoners. Within definitions of international law and conventions, the social isolation and sensory deprivation does, in some circumstances, amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and even torture. Prolonged confinement is defined as any period of solitary confinement in excess of 15 days. According to studies, the psychological effects of isolation can become irreversible at this point.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), explicitly states that the detention of children or the deprivation of liberty should come as a last resort, and that solitary confinement for children is absolutely prohibited.
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture has stated that “solitary confinement can, in certain circumstances, amount to inhuman and degrading treatment; in any event, all forms of solitary confinement should be as short as possible.”
Ansari tells Jerusalem24 that in the case of Manasra, torture and ill-treatment were compounded by deliberate medical neglect as well as the continuation of his arrest.
“The solitary confinement of Ahmad can be considered torture in these cases; I am speaking as the international advocacy officer at Addameer… The consequences of his detention and his continued subjecting to ill treatment, amounts to torture in every way possible whether it is physical or psychological.”
The Israeli Prisons Ordinance (New Version), 1971, identifies 41 disciplinary offenses for which solitary confinement may be imposed as a disciplinary measure. Solitary confinement is a punishment that can be utilized for a maximum of 14 days. The disciplinary offenses include “any action, behavior, disorder or neglect that disrupts good order or discipline, even if not detailed in the preceding clauses” – leaving the justifications for such a measure vague and vulnerable to exploitation, according to a report by Addameer.
The Ordinance was amended twice by the Knesset. The first came in 2000, with an amendment establishing internal and external mechanisms for review of isolation; making the use of solitary confinement a last resort only; and requiring a judge to rule on any extension beyond six months of isolation. The second came in 2006, where the criteria for isolating a prisoner were expanded as were the powers of those authorized to order isolation. The amendment further authorized the use of confidential material in justifying isolation, limiting a prisoner’s ability to challenge the conditions of their isolation.
According to Ansari, the justification for Manasra’s solitary confinement and the application by the Prison Authority’s for a six-month extension is that “He may be considered a threat, and may impose a threat to the security and safety inside Israeli prison.”
“The whole system in itself doesn’t allow any actual reasoning or any actual use of international law. It uses Israeli laws, through Israeli judicial systems, that do not always find justice for Palestinians,” says Ansari.
“These are just justifications the Israeli prison services use in order to try to find any legal loop holes or any justifications to their actions, but when they are presented before a court which is also part of the Israeli apartheid regime, it becomes a whole system that plays a complicated role in all of this.”
Manasra’s case while singular is far from unique. Currently there are 170 child prisoners in Israeli prisons, two of which are administrative detainees.
Ansari tells Jerusalem24 that a number of these 170 child-prisoners have undergone solitary confinement and isolation, under the pretext that they may present a potential future threat to the security of Israel.
17-year-old Amal Nakhleh from Jalazon refugee camp was detained between January 2021 and May 2022 on the basis of secret evidence reviewed in military courts, held without charge or trial for 16 months.
Nakhleh was released on 18 May.
The United Nations has said that administrative detention of children, and in general, may amount to torture and ill-treatment, because of the psychological impact it has on such vulnerable detainees.
“The prison services will never be a rehabilitation or a reform center,” says Ansari. “Solitary confinement does not provide Ahmad Manasra the proper treatment that he needs, and it definitely should not be by the Israeli authorities who already imprisoned him and subjected him to physical and psychological torture.”
“The rehabilitation and reforming of Ahmad Manasra should come from someone who understands the experience of the Palestinian child throughout this whole system,” concludes Ansari.