Israel’s use of solitary confinement is inhumane and breaches international conventions

Solitary confinement in an Israeli prison means being held in a dark, narrow and dirty cell that is damp and has mould on its walls. The cell will have an old squat toilet from which insects and rats may emerge. The purpose of such isolation is to humiliate Palestinians and drain them physically and psychologically. It can be deadly. Prisoner Ibrahim Al-Ra’i died on 11 April 1988 after being held in solitary confinement by the Israelis for nine consecutive months.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been held in solitary confinement by Israel, to the extent that the policy is now part of the systematic approach approved by the legislature and implemented by the executive. Palestinian women are not excluded from this inhumane policy, and their psychological and physical pain is multiplied given the position of honor that they represent in traditional Palestinian society. Today, there are at least 24 Palestinian prisoners who are suffering from psychological illnesses as a result of Israel’s systematic isolation policy.

The Israeli authorities have established special isolation units in many of its prisons, most notably Nafha Prison opened in 1980, Nitzan-Ramle opened in 1989 and in Beersheba, opened in 1992. The latter has three isolation units.

Israel is the only country in the world to legalize its violation of prisoners’ human rights; the Israeli Prisons Ordinance allows the isolation of prisoners on security grounds.

Moreover, a law passed in 2010 and known as the Shalit Law not only allows prisoners to be held in solitary confinement but also the imposition of harsher penalties. They include indefinite periods of isolation; banning family visits; and depriving prisoners of education, reading material and watching television.

Isolation is considered to be a form of psychological torture prohibited under Article 1 of the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It is also inhumane and degrading behavior prohibited under Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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