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Solitary confinement of Palestinian minors reflects plight of adults in Israeli jails

Israeli forces arrest Palestinian youths on 23 October 2012 [Najeh Hashlamoun/Apaimages]
Israeli forces arrest Palestinian youths on 23 October 2012 [Najeh Hashlamoun/Apaimages]

As solitary confinement for Palestinian prisoners makes headlines once again within the context of the “Freedom and Dignity” mass hunger strike, Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) released a report on Wednesday which revealed that Israeli forces in 2016 increased solitary confinement periods for Palestinian children under interrogation.

Out of 161 affidavits collected by the organisation from detained Palestinian minors, 25 attested to having been held in solitary confinement for 16 days on average, while the longest period was 29 days. The detained minors were also deprived of access to a lawyer and having a family member present prior to interrogation. DCIP also found that 62.7 per cent were subjected to physical violence while 52.8 per cent were verbally threatened and intimidated.

Rather than utilising solitary confinement as a practical measure for the safety of children or to enforce discipline, Israel has institutionalised the practice, justifying it through the perpetual security concerns rhetoric. Israeli forces are therefore allowed to incorporate this torture method in order to extract confessions during interrogation sessions, indicating that Palestinian children are subjected to similar tactics used against adult Palestinian detainees.

Read: Palestinian prisoner faces medical neglect in solitary confinement

According to DCIP Accountability Program Director Ayed Abu Eqtaish, “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.”

Subjecting minors to similar violations experienced by adult detainees is evidence of Israel failing to uphold international standards as detailed in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Also, the intentional lack of distinguishing between a minor and an adult is resulting in a system where Israel is exempting itself from accountability, in accordance with the violence that props up the colonial entity.

Several reports and recommendations have been issued throughout the years. However, the result has been identical every time; an initial global outrage countered by the usual condescending rhetoric by Israel, while Palestinian minors remain deprived of their rights and forgotten until the next international report is due.

The fact that these reports are rarely acted upon reveals a major discrepancy when it comes to the protection of rights. The need for awareness has by now been saturated, given the increasing torture and deprivation practices, as well as the availability of organisations to conduct such valuable research. Failing to enforce standard practices with which Israel should abide has created a vacuum in which legislation pertaining to human rights rests on its own pedestal yet failing to achieve anything other than passive reference.

By the time these Palestinian minors reach adulthood, they will have lived through a prelude marking possible future incarcerations by Israel. The timing of this report should induce further reflection on the mass hunger strike and how Israel’s brutal incarceration system is a tool through which to enforce Palestinian subjugation within all generations.

As the mobilisation generates solidarity hunger strikes outside prison walls, it is important that Palestinian minors are also given prominence in this context and their plight highlighted. After all, if there is no other justification for Israel’s use of solitary confinement for Palestinian minors other than coercion, then it has blatantly inserted such coercion as a pillar upon which Israel survives.

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