Israeli authorities must immediately release Ahmad Manasra, a 20-year-old Palestinian man who has developed serious mental health problems since his arrest as a child seven years ago, Amnesty International said today. On Sunday 19 June a parole board will review Ahmad Manasra’s case.
In 2015 Israeli authorities arrested Ahmad Manasra, who was then 13 years old, and harshly interrogated and threatened him without a lawyer present. He has been in prison ever since, and in solitary confinement since early November 2021. Ahmad has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, is suffering from psychotic delusions, and is severely depressed with suicidal thoughts. On Wednesday he was moved to the Ramleh prison hospital in central Israel due to his deteriorating mental state.
“Ahmad Manasra has been subjected to a catalogue of injustices by the Israeli authorities, including deleterious effects of incarceration on his development and prolonged solitary confinement. He endured ill-treatment during interrogations, which were conducted without his parents or lawyers’ presence, and was denied the right to a fair trial. He should have been released a long time ago, yet he remains in unnecessary suffering in Israeli prisons,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Pending his release from detention, he must be given access to adequate medical care and never be placed in solitary confinement again. Allegations of torture and other human rights violations that Ahmad has suffered must be effectively and transparently investigated.”
Ahmad Manasra was arrested on 12 October 2015 in relation to the stabbing and injury of two Israeli citizens in Pisgat Zeev, an illegal Israeli settlement in occupied East Jerusalem. Despite being found by the courts not to have participated in the stabbings, he was convicted of attempted murder in 2016 in proceedings marred by allegations of torture, and despite the fact that he was below the minimum age of criminal responsibility at the time.
On 19 June 2022, Beersheba District Court will review Ahmad Manasra’s eligibility for early release under Israel’s Parole Law of 2001.
Israel, a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), has obligations to ensure that depriving children of their liberty is “used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time”.
Prolonged solitary confinement
Ahmad Manasra has been held in prolonged solitary confinement since the beginning of November 2021, in violation of the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. The Israel Prison Service asked to renew Ahmad’s solitary confinement for a further six months on 17 April 2022. A hearing that was scheduled to be held on 15 June 2022 with regards to his solitary confinement was postponed to a later date.
Ahmad Manasra’s mental health worsened during his incarceration. In October 2021 an independent Israeli clinical psychologist working with Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHRI) diagnosed him with severe psychiatric conditions, and stated these had developed since his incarceration.
Ahmad Manasra’s parents said in February 2022 that their son had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, is suffering from psychotic delusions, and is severely depressed with suicidal thoughts.
His lawyer, Khaled Zabarqa, told Amnesty International: “We have asked the Israel Prison Service to release Ahmad into home and community care as a matter of urgency because there is a real danger to his life. The prison doctors themselves recognized as much in their report on 13 June which led to his transfer from the prison cell to the prison hospital.”
Israeli discrimination against Palestinian children
Israel continues to perpetrate widespread as well as systematic human rights violations against Palestinians, including children, against a backdrop of decades of state-sponsored discrimination, segregation and persecution. There is evidence that the treatment of Ahmad Manasra fits a wider pattern of discrimination against Palestinian children in the Israeli criminal justice system. According to Amnesty International’s records, some 170 Palestinians currently imprisoned were arrested when they were children. In many of these cases, children were denied fair trials in line with international standards and protection under the child justice system. In other cases, children were subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.
For decades, the Israel Security Agency, Israel Prison Service and Israeli security forces have tortured or otherwise ill-treated Palestinian detainees, including children, during arrest, transfer and interrogation. The Israel Security Agency uses particularly harsh methods to obtain information and “confessions”.
In contrast, few Jewish citizens of Israel, including children, are convicted of violence against Palestinians, and those who are arrested are afforded basic rights which are denied to Palestinians.
“Israel’s widespread and systematic use of arbitrary arrest, administrative detention and torture on a large scale against Palestinians is a flagrant violation of international law, and is a key component of the apartheid system,” said Heba Morayef.
“Ahmad Manasra is one of countless Palestinians, whose rights as a child, have been swept up in Israel’s deeply flawed justice system, and he must be released.”
A month after Ahmad Manasra’s arrest in November 2015, footage of his interrogation was made public. The 10-minute video, reviewed by Amnesty International, shows Ahmad being interrogated by three men, without the presence of his lawyer or parent in violation of international standards. He appears increasingly distressed as his interrogators continue to shout at him, directing insults and threats. This video is evidence of several violations of Manasra’s rights as a child and as a detainee. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, there have been no investigations into the conduct of police and security officers.