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UN experts urge Israel to free Ahmad Manasra

Jerusalem24 – A panel of United Nations experts has called on the Israeli government to immediately release Ahmad Manasra, saying his continued detention “is a stain on all of us as part of the international human rights community.”

The panel of four experts, which includes the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, have been in contact with the Israeli government to raise concerns about Manasra’s case, they announced in a press release on Thursday.

“Ahmad’s case provides clear evidence of Israel’s deliberate practices of subjecting Palestinians, including children, to arbitrary detention, torture and inhumane treatment, often disguised as a ‘legitimate’ counter-terrorism response,” said the experts. According to the press release, the case also raises serious concerns of possible violations of international fair trial standards applicable to children, including the prohibition of inducing through coercion a child to a confession or self-incriminatory testimony.

20-year-old Ahmad 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) although Israeli law at the time when the crime was committed in 2015 did not permit imprisonment of minors under the age of 14.

The UN panel says the retroactive application of laws to Manasra, such as the December 2018 law which forbids the early release of prisoners convicted under terrorism charges, is “illegal, disproportionate and discriminatory.”

A campaign calling for Manasra’s early release has been gaining traction in recent months amidst concerns over his rapidly deteriorating mental health. Manasra has been subjected to solitary confinement for periods of several months at a time. Israeli officials say this is for his own protection.

Doctors and lawyers for Manasra have raised the possibility that he may have suffered severe brain trauma during the 2015 attack and his subsequent detention, further aggravating his mental health condition.

Following the stabbing, Manasra was hit by a car and sustained serious head injuries while an Israeli crowd jeered at him. Following his arrest, video footage, widely circulated on media, showed young, distressed Ahmad being harshly treated and severely interrogated without the presence of his parents or legal representative.

“The gut-wrenching scenes of a child with broken bones laying on the ground under a barrage of insults and threats shouted by armed adults in a foreign language; of that very same boy being spoon-fed by unfamiliar hands while chained to a hospital bed and then violently interrogated in breach of human rights norms and principles concerning arrest and detention of a child, continue to haunt our conscience,” the experts said in the press release.

“To Ahmad we say, we regret we failed to protect you”.

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