‘I am alone’: Israeli courts reject appeal to protect what remains of Ahmad Manasra

Mariam Barghouti

Mondoweiss  /  August 17, 2022

The Israeli court’s repeated extension of Ahmad Manasra’s solitary confinement is “destroying him” according to his lawyer.

On Tuesday, August 16, Israel’s Beer Sheva District court extended the solitary confinement of 20-year-old Palestinian detainee, Ahmad Manasra, for an additional six months. 

Manasra had been moved from Eshel prison in Beer Sheva to Shakima Prison in Ashkelon, last Saturday, August 13. Israel’s rejection to remove the 20-year-old from solitary has been condemned by mental health experts and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International.

While Israeli Prison Services and authorities attempt to justify Manasra’s isolation by claiming that he poses a threat to his own life and that of other prisoners, Manasra’s lead defense lawyer, Khaled Zabarqa, told Amnesty that “the repeated extensions of his solitary confinement are destroying him.”

The slow killing of Ahmad Manasra

During the video conference in which Manasra joined his hearing, his father asked him how he’s spending his time. A video which spread on social media shows the heartache in his father’s expressions as Manasra says, “I am alone, yaba [dad]

In June of this year, Manasra’s conviction file was re-classified under “terrorism,” a clause in Israel’s youth law, which allows for imprisonment of children as young as 12 years old by Israel. The clause was ratified by Israeli courts during Manasra’s trial when he was arrested at the age of 13 for allegedly participating in a stabbing attack in one of the illegal settlements in Jerusalem.

When Manasra’s file was classified under the “terrorism” clause, Qadura Faris, head of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society, said in a statement to local press, that this was a direct “decision to kill him.”

The eldest of eight children, Manasra’s case continues to showcase the brutality faced by Palestinian children and youth at the hands of the Israeli security apparatus, which includes the courts and active coordination with lawmakers and prison services. Manasra has been transferred across the various Israeli prisons, such as Mejjedo, Ramleh, and Eshel, all of which are documented to have used illegal practices against Palestinian detainees, including minors.

Health workers plea for amnesty

In March, a coalition of 36 health experts called for the release of Ahmad Manasra in light of his rapidly deteriorating mental health, due to exposure to protracted mistreatment, coercive practices during his interrogation as a child, solitary confinement, and the injuries he sustained when settlers beat him and cursed him as he bled on the ground in 2015.

Despite having less than three years left on his sentence, Israeli courts continue to deny early release to Manasra. The impact of the sentence is compounded by the fact that he is being imprisoned indefinitely in solitary confinement, a practice deemed illegal under international law. 

Worldwide campaigns for Manasra’s release have continued, pointing out the knee-jerk decision of Israeli authorities to imprison Manasra as a first measure, at the age of 13—a violation of international laws and conventions for the protection of children that view imprisonment as a last resort. 

Manasra is a victim of child abuse at the hands of Israeli settlers and military authorities. While legal frameworks emphasize that children are victims of their realities and environment in areas of armed conflict, Manasra was treated as a “terrorist” and a perpetrator by Israeli authorities. This shows a disconnect between Israeli legal structures and international norms—the latter view children as organized terrorist groups, while the former would recognize the impact of a protracted military occupation and systemic discriminatory policies upon them.

Manasra is from Jerusalem, and his imprisonment showcases the lengths to which Israel is willing to go to paralyze Palestinian well-being in the city, as it pushes for continued annexation and illegal expansion of settler-colonial efforts.

Mariam Barghouti is the Senior Palestine Correspondent for Mondoweiss