The fight to end Ahmad Manasra’s solitary confinement continues as his health deteriorates

Ahmad Manasra in 2016 (AFP)

Mariam Barghouti

Mondoweiss  /  July 22, 2022

“The world needs to move urgently, time is not on our side. Every day that passes is a loss,” Manasra’s lawyer Khaled Zabarqa tells Mondoweiss.

An Israeli court postponed a hearing for Ahmad Manasra for the third time on Wednesday, a move that will subject him to another month in solitary confinement in Israeli prison.

Manasra, 20, was scheduled for a court hearing in Eshel Prison in the Beersheba Prison complex, south of Jerusalem. His legal team is appealing to have him removed from solitary confinement, where he has already spent seven consecutive months.

His lawyers are also appealing to have him transferred to either Negev or Nafha prisons, where older Palestinian detainees have vouched to take care of young Manasra, who has been suffering from mental health deterioration.

The hearing on Wednesday was postponed for the third time, at the request of Israeli prosecution, until August 16. 

The battle to salvage what remains for Manasra

Manasra, who was arrested when he was 13-years-old, has been held in solitary confinement by Israeli Prison Services since October 2021, when his mental health began to further deteriorate. 

“The world needs to move urgently, time is not on our side. Every day that passes is a loss,” Manasra’s lawyer Khaled Zabarqa, told Mondoweiss

For almost a year, Manasra’s family, legal team, and advocates have been in a battle with the Israeli legal system in light of the abuses he faced as a child in the custody of Israel’s military and armed forces. Until now Manasra has been denied his rights to a fair trial, family visits, and continues to be held in complete isolation despite warnings from doctors, lawyers, and human rights defenders on the tragic impact this bears on his overall well-being.

Studies, world-wide, show that the impact of solitary confinement on the health of prisoners is largely negative, resulting in anger, depression, psychosis, paranoia, and even suicide. These can be even more pronounced in youth held in solitary confinement. 

“[Ahmad’s] condition has been worsening for the last two years,” Zabarqa explained to Mondoweiss, indicating that his condition has been declining since he was only 18 years old. 

On 28 June of this year, Manasra, was denied early release by Israel’s parole board in Ramle prison. His solitary confinement coupled with denial of familial contact, and the emotional disturbance caused by his trial places him in an even more fragile condition. 

“When I saw him, it was as though he was trying to hold on to any inkling of home,” Zabarqa described to Mondoweiss.

The practice of solitary confinement in Israeli prisons for Palestinians has been long upheld. Thousands of Palestinians, adults and children alike, have suffered from this practice, despite consensus on the negative impact on human lives.

In 2004, Israel held Mansour Shahteet from Hebron, in solitary confinement for years, even thought he was only 17 years old. His father, Yousef recalled the moment he confronted the Israeli judge in an interview with the Turkish network, Anadolu Agency, “I asked…why my son is in solitary confinement, I told him this is dehumanizing and it must end.” Yousef continued, “The judge said my son must be in solitary confinement until his death.”

Israel’s vengeance against a child

“The world always considered children as victims of war, not perpetrators of it,” Zabarqa told Mondoweiss. “Yet, here we are reaching a point to where the Israeli authorities are charging a child.”

In international legal frameworks, children must be protected in areas of conflict. Yet, in Israel not only was Manasra sentenced to prison at 13, he was coerced into confessions by Israeli military and interrogation officers at gun point. In addition, when Israeli law did not allow for Manasra to be sentenced due to his young age, Israeli lawmakers moved to change the law in order to allow for his detention. 

Manasra’s case continues to illustrate Israel’s abuses towards Palestinian children, impacting not only current populations, but the generations yet to come. Intimidation and threats of the young boy, even as he was shackled to a hospital bed in Jerusalem, have contributed to the deterioration of Manasra’s mental health and UN representatives as well as global officials, activists, lawyers, mental health workers, and human rights defenders have been urging that Israel release him. 

Israeli authorities continue to not only refuse Manasra his rights, but Israeli Prison Services with the support of Israeli courts continue the abuses against this mare in violation of international law, in the abuses upheld against a child.

For now, there are three primary demands for Israeli authorities in salvaging what remains of Manasra: to release him immediately, grant him early probation, and to remove him from solitary confinement and into the care taking of Palestinian political detainees approved in coordination with his legal defense.

Mariam Barghouti is the Senior Palestine Correspondent for Mondoweiss