By Palestine Chronicle Staff
Israeli authorities increased the use of solitary confinement for Palestinians under the age of 18 as an interrogation tactic and started holding minors in isolation for longer durations in 2016, according to a report released by the Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) on Wednesday.
According to affidavits collected from 161 Palestinian children from the occupied West Bank who were prosecuted in Israel’s military courts, 25 of them – all boys between 15- and 17-years-old – were held in solitary confinement as an interrogation method to extract a confession, for an average of 16 days and in some cases lasting as long as 29 days.
The group documented a 23 percent increase in the use of solitary confinement against Palestinian children in 2016 compared to the previous year, when 15 Palestinian children were held in solitary for Israeli interrogation purposes.
— The IMEU (@theIMEU) April 17, 2017
In addition, of the 161 affadavits collected by the group, 62.7 percent of the minors said they had “endured some form of physical violence” during their detentions, while 52.8 percent were “verbally abused, intimidated, or threatened.”
In 83.9 percent of the cases, Israeli authorities also denied them access to lawyers before their interrogations, while in 94.4 percent of cases, Palestinian children were interrogated without a lawyer or family member present, violating international standards on dealing with juveniles in the justice system.
“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,” Ayed Abu Eqtaish, the accountability program director at DCIP, said in the report.
— Defense for Children (@DCIPalestine) April 17, 2017
From 2012 to 2015, DCIP documented 66 cases of Palestinian children being held in solitary confinement for an average duration of 13 days, and the longest stay in confinement being 45 days.
The statement pointed out that Israel’s former chief military prosecutor in the occupied West Bank Maurice Hirsch told Israeli news outlet The Jerusalem Post back in February that Israeli authorities had no policy that permitted the use of solitary confinement on Palestinian children.
“In cases where Palestinian children are held in isolation it is due to the fact that no other minors were present at the facility at the time, and the law requires that minors be held separate from adults to ensure their protection,” Hirsch reportedly said.
— Abbs Winston (@AbbsWinston) April 17, 2017
However, research done by DCIP has “overwhelmingly suggested” that Israeli authorities have used an “apparent policy and practice” of using isolation on Palestinian child detainees in order to obtain confessions or gather information on other Palestinians during interrogations.
The report underscored the fact that when solitary confinement is “used intentionally during pretrial detention as a technique for the purpose of obtaining information or a confession,” the practice amounts to “torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” according to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.
In addition, DCIP pointed out that Israel remains the “only country in the world that systematically prosecutes between 500 and 700 children in military courts each year that lack fundamental fair trial rights.”
DCIP urged Israeli authorities to halt the practice of solitary confinement and to amend Israel’s military law to reflect international standards.
“The practice of using solitary confinement on children, for any duration, is a clear violation of international law, as it amounts to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, and in some cases, torture.”