Solitary confinement doubles in Israeli jails: UN panel

3rd May 2016, Comments 0 comments

The use of solitary confinement in Israeli jails nearly doubled between 2012 and 2014, a UN panel investigating the Jewish state over a raft of alleged violations of prisoners' rights said Tuesday.

In its first review of Israel since 2009, the UN committee against torture questioned a delegation from Jerusalem over multiple reports of potentially illegal conduct by security agents, especially with respect to Palestinian prisoners.

Lead questioner Jens Modvig said the UN committee had "received reports that the use of solitary confinement in Israeli jails has doubled between 2012 and 2014," with the number of people held in isolation jumping from 390 to 755 over the period.

Committee members, who typically do not visit the countries subject to review, compile their statistics largely from data provided by civil society groups and independent reports.

Modvig, who did not give statistics for 2015, asked Israel to provide its own breakdown of the prevalence of solitary confinement, including why the practice appeared to have spread dramatically.

He further sought figures on the number of suicide attempts among those held in isolation.

Modvig also asked Jerusalem to respond to reports that Palestinian women detained in Israel were subject to "verbal sexual harassment, repeated strip searches and forms of genital violence", without listing specific cases.

In February, two Israeli NGOs claimed in a report that the Shin Bet domestic security agency perpetrated systematic abuses against Palestinians during interrogation.

That report by rights groups B'Tselem and Hamoked included accounts from prisoners who said they had been bound hand and foot to a chair for hours on end and exposed to extreme cold and heat.

Modvig specifically criticised Israel for not legally enshrining any measures limiting the use of "handcuffs and restraints" during interrogation, while using "immobilisation and stress positions" on prisoners being questioned.

In opening remarks, Israel's deputy attorney general Roy Schondorf said Jerusalem was fully committed to abiding by the UN Convention against Torture, "in spite of the numerous, unique and pressing difficulties facing Israel in the fight against terrorism.

The government delegation is due to formally respond to the UN panel's questions on Wednesday.


© 2016 AFP

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