Report: Surge in solitary confinement cases
[7 December 2021] – Historically, less than 4 percent of Palestinian child detainees have reported being held in solitary confinement as part of their interrogation process - or 20 to 40 children each year. A new report published today suggests that the proportion of children currently held in solitary confinement has surged to nearly 20 percent - with the trend continuing to rise. This surge equates to between 100 to 200 children each year.
The report reviews 45 testimonies from children held in solitary confinement between January 2019 and May 2021. These testimonies trace the journey of the child from their homes in the West Bank to interrogation centres located in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and inside Israel. The testimonies document children being held in tiny cells, sometimes described as filthy or cockroach ridden, with little or no bedding and inedible food. More disturbingly, in most cells there are no windows and an electric light is left on 24 hours a day.
While kept in these conditions, the testimonies describe how the children are subjected to multiple interrogations, mostly without the benefit of their legal rights, in which they are intimidated, threatened and cajoled into providing confessions while suffering from severe sleep deprivation. Out of the 45 testimonies where the child's case was concluded, the conviction rate in a military court was 100 percent.
The psychological and physical impact on these children of being held in solitary confinement for an average of 10.5 days was profound, including: attempted suicide; threatened suicide; acts of self-harm, such as banging their heads against metal cell doors begging to be released; weight loss up to 12 kilograms; substance addiction; a lack of hope and despair.
The report also notes that in 70 percent of cases the children were unlawfully transferred to interrogation facilities outside the West Bank inside Israel - in violation of prohibitions put in place following World War Two.
There is a general consensus that no child should be held in solitary confinement under any circumstances. This conclusion was reached following an extensive review of the science surrounding the impact of isolation on children and has been adopted, among others, by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the UN Committee against Torture, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and UNICEF.
Finally, the report notes that none of this information is new. Reports of similar treatment can be found as far back as at least 1991. That this treatment persists in 2021, is a testament to the lack of accountability which ultimately may potentially cause irreversible harm to the ideal of a rules-based order and undermine confidence in the institutions promoted to deliver justice.
The report annexes over 100 pages of evidence.