United Nations (UN) human rights experts on Thursday urged Israel to immediately release Palestinian prisoner Ahmed Manasra, 20, who was detained at 14 years old and has been suffering serious mental health conditions.
“Ahmed’s imprisonment for almost six years has deprived him of childhood, family environment, protection, and all the rights he should have been guaranteed as a child,” the UN website reported the experts saying.
“This case is haunting in many respects and his continuous detention, despite his deteriorating mental conditions, is a stain on all of us as part of the international human rights community,” the experts added.
The experts included Francesca Albanese, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.
In addition, they included E. Tendayi Achiume, special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and Tlaleng Mofokeng, special rapporteur on the right to health.
“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.
“To Ahmed we say, we regret we failed to protect you,” the experts expressed.
In 2015, then 13-year-old Ahmed and his 15-year-old cousin were accused of stabbing two Israelis in the Pisgat Ze’ev settlement in the occupied West Bank, the UN website explained.
His cousin was shot dead at the scene, whereas Ahmed 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 a young, distressed Ahmed being harshly treated and severely interrogated without the presence of his parents or legal representative.
After he had turned 14 years old in 2016, the UN website continued, Ahmed was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 12 years in prison, although the law at the time when the crime was allegedly committed in 2015 did not permit the imprisonment of minors under the age of 14.
The sentence was later reduced to nine and a half years. His mental condition has, reportedly, steadily deteriorated, possibly due to the harsh conditions of his detention, the recurrent instances of solitary confinement and, more tragically, the solitude away from his family.
Despite Ahmed’s aggravated mental health conditions, Israeli authorities have rejected requests by Ahmed’s lawyers for his early release.
Medical reports found that Ahmed suffers from schizophrenia and confirmed the devastating impact of the harsh treatment he was subject to at a young age.
“Solitary confinement of a child for such a prolonged period may amount to torture, prohibited in all circumstances under international human rights law,” described the experts.
“Ahmed must urgently receive the necessary mental health care and counselling, especially in light of reports that he has repeatedly put himself at risk of self-harm. Ahmed’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.”
According to the UN website, the experts have been in contact with the Israeli government to raise concerns about Ahmed’s case.