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Evidence update: solitary confinement

[31 May 2024] – Evidence relating to the systematic use of solitary confinement of Palestinian children detained by Israeli military authorities as part of their interrogation is well documentedPlacing individuals, particularly children, in solitary confinement has devastating psychological and physical consequences. Further, experience has shown that individuals, especially children, are prone to say, and do, almost anything to escape isolation, prompting the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to state that:

“The imposition of solitary confinement, of any duration, on juveniles is cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and violates article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 16 of the Convention against Torture.”
It has also been observed that:
“To hold children routinely and for substantial periods in solitary confinement would, if it occurred, be capable of amounting to torture in breach of not only article 37(a) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child but of other well-known international instruments.” (Including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court) [i]
The weight of evidence as to the harm caused by placing children in solitary confinement prompted UNICEF in 2013 to recommend that: “In no circumstances whatsoever should a child be held in solitary confinement.” [ii]
While the impact of solitary confinement is clearly devastating, data collected by MCW suggests that between 2013-2018, Israeli interrogators were employing this technique in approximately 2 percent of cases involving children, affecting between 14-20 children each year. However, since 2019, MCW has documented an alarming surge in the use of the practice rising to 42 percent of cases in 2021. While data collected for 2023/24 indicates the practice continues to occur in 17 percent of cases, it should be noted that reports continue to be received and documented, suggesting this rate is likely to increase. 
Children held in solitary confinement describe being placed in tiny cells, often without windows with an electric light left on 24 hours a day. Children report being underfed, cold and sleep deprived; without any sense of time. It is in this bewildered state that they are subjected to multiple interrogations generally without the benefit of basic rights or legal advice. After only a matter of days, children report being desperate to get out of this situation making the likelihood of false confessions highly probable while leaving them susceptible to recruitment as informants. Reports of self-harm and suicide attempts continue to be documented. 
The facilities used to hold children in solitary confinement in 2023/24 include: Al Muscobiyyeh interrogation centre (West Jerusalem); Petah Tikva interrogation centre (Israel); Al Jalame interrogation centre (Israel); Ofer prison (occupied West Bank); and the police station in Ariel settlement (occupied West Bank). Three out of five of these facilities are inside Israel and in 75 percent of these cases the children were unlawfully transferred from the occupied West Bank in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. These facilities are variously operated by: the Israel Prison Service; the Israel Police; and the Israel Security Agency. In all of the solitary confinement cases documented by MCW during 2023/24 the children were males who spent, on average, 25 days in isolation, with a maximum of 45 days.
Based on the percentage rates presented in the table above, it is estimated that the number of children affected each year since 2019 is as follows: [iii]
  • 2019          -           56 – 80 children
  • 2020          -           161 – 230 children 
  • 2021          -           294 – 420 children
  • 2022          -           203 – 290 children
  • 2023/24     -           119 – 170 children 
Officials from the US State Department have been briefed on this issue for over a decade and it was included in the most recent State Department’s human rights report for 2023. Further, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has been in possession of over 100 cases relating to children held in Israeli solitary confinement since at least November 2023. 

[i] Children in Military Custody (June 2012) – An independent report written by a delegation of British lawyers on the treatment of Palestinian children under Israeli military law funded by the UK Foreign Office. Available at:
[ii] UNICEF: Children in Israeli Military Detention (February 2013) – Available at:
[iii] Assuming an annual detention rate of 700-1,000 children.