mardi 1 novembre 2011

Israel’s cruel practice of isolation of prisoners should be banned !

Electronic Intifada

“Solitary confinement should be banned by States as a punishment or extortion technique,” said Juan E. Méndez to the UN General Assembly on 18 October. Méndez is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In his first interim report he examines the practice of solitary confinement. Méndez includes Israel in his report. He writes: “In Israel, solitary confinement cells are often lit with fluorescent bulbs as their only source of light, and they have no source of fresh air.”

The law of the State of Israel permits prisoners and detainees to be held in solitary confinement under three circumstances: during interrogation, as a disciplinary measure, and during so-called “separation” for an extended, unlimited period of time. Detailed information on the inhumane practice of isolation can be found in the report Solitary Confinement of Prisoners and Detainees in Israeli prisons, published in June 2011 by three Israeli-based human rights organizations.

UN Rapporteur Méndez defines solitary confinement as any regime where an inmate is held in isolation from others (except guards) for at least twenty-two hours a day. According to Méndez, “Solitary confinement reduces meaningful social contact to an absolute minimum. The level of social stimulus that results is insufficient for the individual to remain in a reasonable state of mental health.”
The report adds: “The use of prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement has increased in various jurisdictions, especially in the context of the ‘war on terror’ and ‘a threat to national security’. Owing to their isolation, prisoners held in prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement can easily slip out of sight of justice, and safeguarding their rights is therefore difficult.” Méndez recommends that indefinite and prolonged solitary confinement, longer than fifteen days, should be prohibited.

Hunger strike did not end isolation practice

In October, Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails held a three-week mass hunger strike demanding that Israel end the policy of keeping detainees in solitary confinement. The number of prisoners held in isolation had increased sharply over a period of months. Last May twelve prisoners were held in isolation by Israel for “security” reasons, according to Addameer. After Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the introduction of harsher detention conditions for Palestinian prisoners, another seven prisoners were placed in solitary confinement in June and three more in July. 
During the hunger strike, a large number of participating prisoners were placed in isolation, in particular in Ohal Keidar and Shatta prisons. Addameer could not access exact numbers because the Israeli Prison Service substantially limited visits to prisoners by Addameer’s lawyers.
The hunger strike was put on hold after Israel agreed to end the practice and release detainees from isolation. The agreement was not applicable to Palestinian Hamas movement prisoners Abdallah Barghouthi, Mahmoud Issa and Ibrahim Hamed, who have been held in isolation since 2003, 2002 and 2006 respectively.
Ahmad Saadat’s 31 months of solitary confinement was extended for one year in October 2011. The decision was based on secret evidence.
Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian Authority Minister of Detainee Affairs, told Ma’an News Agency that around 20 Palestinians remain in solitary confinement.
Meanwhile, three prisoners who had been held in isolation for “security” reasons were released in the prisoner swap on 18 October.

Aweidah Kollab suffered 12 years in isolation

The European Network to support the rights of Palestinian Prisoners, UFree, has released an exclusive report on the situation of Aweidah Kollab from Gaza City. His story clearly shows the devastating damage that can be caused by the inhumane, despicable practice of solitary confinement. Kollab was released as part of the prisoner exchange after 24 years in prison, 12 of which he spent in solitary confinement. His family was shocked by his psychological condition.

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