Days of Palestine – Ramallah
UN human rights experts today urged the Israeli occupation authorities to immediately release Ahmad Manasra, a 20-year-old Palestinian detained in Israeli prisons since he was 14 years old, while suffering serious mental health conditions.
The experts are Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; and Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to health.
“Ahmad’s imprisonment for almost six years has deprived him of childhood, family environment, protection, and all the rights he should have been guaranteed as a child,” the experts said.
“This case is haunting in many respects and his continuous detention, despite his deteriorating mental conditions, is a stain on all of us as part of the international human rights community”.
In 2015, then 13-year-old Ahmad Manasra and his 15-year-old cousin were accused of stabbing two Israelis in the Pisgat Ze’ev settlement in the occupied West Bank. His cousin was shot dead at the scene, whereas Ahmad was hit by a car and sustained serious head injuries while an Israeli crowd jeered at him. Following his arrest, video footage, widely circulated on media, showed young, distressed Ahmad being harshly treated and severely interrogated without the presence of his parents or legal representative.
“The gut-wrenching scenes of a child with broken bones laying on the ground under a barrage of insults and threats shouted by armed adults in a foreign language; of that very same boy being spoon-fed by unfamiliar hands while chained to a hospital bed and then violently interrogated in breach of human rights norms and principles concerning arrest and detention of a child, continue to haunt our conscience,” the experts said.
“To Ahmad we say, we regret we failed to protect you”.
“Ahmad’s arrest and detention happened over a span of time which is absolutely critical for the emotional, intellectual and social development of a child. In all actions concerning children, the best interest of the child must be a primary consideration,” the experts said. “In violation of this fundamental principle, the overriding consideration in this case appeared to be Israel’s focus on containing whoever they label as terrorism threats”, they said.
Despite Ahmad’s aggravated mental conditions, Israeli occupation authorities have rejected requests by Ahmad’s lawyers for his early release. Israeli authorities maintain that the offence Ahmad was sentenced for constitutes an act of terror, making him ineligible for early release pursuant to the Counter-Terrorism Law. However, this Law only came into effect in November 2016, and amendments to the Counter-Terrorism Law that barred early release for those convicted of serious crimes involving terrorist acts were introduced in December 2018, long after Ahmad was convicted of attempted murder in May 2016.
“As repeatedly reiterated to Israeli authorities, its ill-defined and overly broad Counter-Terrorism Law has led to far too many instances of arbitrariness and abuse. Ahmad’s case is yet another morally and legally unjustifiable consequence of the Law. Its retroactive application to Ahmad, which resulted in the denial of his early release, is illegal, disproportionate and discriminatory,” the experts said.