Solitary confinement in one of the main violations carried out by Israeli prison authorities against Palestinian detainees, according to Ahmad Bikawi, head of the media department at the Prisoners Supporters Society.

Ever since the Israeli army occupied the Palestinian territories in1967, Bikawi said, it has used arrests as a means of collective punishment and maintaining control over the people and the land.

Altogether, he said, Israel has arrested more than half a million residents. Thousands of them spent more than ten years in detention, and some have been in detention more than twenty or twenty-five years.

Most of the cells in which Palestinian prisoners are confined measure only 2 by 1.5 meters, he said. They are typically dark and humid, with only dim lighting, and infested by bugs and rats. Temperatures in these cells are very cold in winter and hot during summer.

Israel began using solitary confinement as punishment as early as 1967. Detainees confined to solitary are kept there for long periods, completely isolated under very harsh living conditions.

“Israel aims to degrade the detainees and destroy their will by keeping them confined to solitary for long periods in dark, tiny cells, unable to talk or see anyone, which is part of the physiological war practiced against them,” Bikawi said.  

He presented a paper detailing the ‘excuses’ used by prison authorities to place the detainees in solitary:

– The detainees’ disobedience to laws imposed on them, even though these laws are unjust and are created by the soldiers in order to degrade the prisoners..

– Some detainees are confined to solitary because they reject the humiliation practiced against them, and inspire other detainees to stand up for their rights. This policy was clearly apparent after the detainees conducted the latest hunger strike; all of the detainees who led the strike were confined to solitary.

-  Some detainees are considered a threat to the Israeli security even while in detention.

– Detainees with psychological problems are confined to solitary instead of receiving the needed attention and support.


Main effects of solitary confinement:

– Continuous nervousness. 

– Physiological problems, health problems and critical health deterioration.

– Tiredness and fatigue.

– Sight problems, especially among the detainees who spent long periods in the dark cells.

– Some detainees became used to loneliness and rarely talk, especially after spending years in solitary.

– Lack of concentration and memory disorders.

– Schizophrenia and depression.

As living example of the effects of the Israeli policies, Bikawi listed several detainees in Israel’s Ohali-Qidar detention facility who are suffering psychological problems resulting from solitary confinement: 

– Ahmad Shukry of Ramallah, arrested on 9-9-1989, sentenced to one life term and held in solitary since 1-11-1995.

– Mo’taz Hijazi of Jerusalem, arrested on 6-2-2000, confined to solitary since 15-11-2001.

There are currently 37 detainees confined to solitary in the following detention facilities, according to Bikawi:

– Eshel 

– Ayalon (for administrative detainees)

– Ayalon (for “security” detainees)

– Rimonim 

– Asqalan

– Shatta

– Ohali Qidar

– Al-Jalama

– Kfar Youna

Bikawi called for intensive efforts in order to improve the lives of the detainees, expose Israeli policies of solitary confinement, and remove the detainees from their cells.

“We need to conduct utmost efforts on the local and international level to release the detainees,” Bikawi said.