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Children in solitary confinement: “Israel’s pattern of abuse is inhumane, cruel, degrading and unlawful” – UN expert

GENEVA (20 July 2012) – United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, condemned Israel’s use of solitary confinement against Palestinian children, as reported earlier by the UN Special Committee on Israeli practices in the Occupied Territories. He urged the Israeli Government to treat Palestinian children detainees in accordance with international human rights laws.

“Israel’s use of solitary confinement against children flagrantly violates international human rights standards,” said Mr. Falk, expressing his outrage that Israel even imposes solitary confinement punitively on child hunger strikers. “However, using solitary confinement as a punishment for Palestinian children who wish to peacefully protest their situation, including by commencing a hunger strike against conditions of detention, is an appalling abuse of child prisoners.”

“This pattern of abuse by Israel is grave,” the Special Rapporteur stressed. “It is inhumane, cruel, degrading, and unlawful, and, most worryingly, it is likely to adversely affect the mental and physical health of underage detainees.”

Last month, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy named Khaled was placed for five days in solitary confinement because he started a hunger strike. In another case, a 16-year-old boy was placed in solitary confinement for seven days as a punishment for hanging a Palestinian flag in their cell. Another 16-year-old boy spent 12 days in solitary confinement during the interrogation at Al Jalame interrogation center.

“I again condemn Israel’s harsh arrest operations and procedures, during which Palestinian children are tightly bound and blindfolded,” the independent expert said, recalling his latest report* to the Human Rights Council. “Prison conditions are often deplorable, requiring children to sleep on the floor or on a concrete bed in a windowless cell.”

The Special Rapporteur also warned that “Palestinian children, especially from Gaza, are also denied visits by and access to their parents and lawyers. This isolates and intimidates the children and exposes them to ill-treatment during interrogation.”

Mr. Falk appealed to the Government of Israel to take urgent steps to bring their treatment of Palestinian children detainees into line with international human rights laws, in particular the Convention on the Rights of the Child. “An important step in the right direction would be to respect their rights and uphold their dignity,” he said. “This includes when they wish to protest their situation nonviolently, as by recourse to a hunger strike.”

The Special Rapporteur noted that, in 53 cases reported since 2008 by the NGO Defence for Children International, Palestinian children aged between 15 and 17 have been held in solitary confinement for periods ranging from 1 to 24 days.

In 2008, the UN Human Rights Council designated Richard Falk (United States of America) as the fifth Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the UN Commission on Human Rights. Learn more, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/countries/ps/mandate/index.htm

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s 2012 report: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session20/A-HRC-20-32_en.pdf

OHCHR Country Page – Occupied Palestinian Territories: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/PSIndex.aspx
OHCHR Country Page – Israel: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/ILIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Kevin Turner (+41 79 509 0557 / kturner@ohchr.org) or Chenie Yoon (+41 22 928 9134 / cyoon@ohchr.org) or write to sropt@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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