News roundup

News roundup for the week includes: stories on solitary confinement in the US; Palestinian children in Israel detention; new Supreme Court decision in Mexico may stomp out impunity; Argentina’s torture problem. 

Human Rights Watch estimates that, on any given day, there are 80,000 US prisoners in solitary confinement; many who have been subjected to this form of torture for years, even decades in some cases. Photo by x1klima on Flickr; available through Creative Commons License.

United States:
An editorial at Al Jazeera notes
that media and perhaps legislative consensus is growing around the issue of long-term solitary confinement as torture. UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez has previously stated that solitary confinement longer than 15 days can constitute torture. Some prisoners in the US detention system have been in some form or another of solitary confinement for as long as 40 years. The editorial also indicates that this form of punishment and cruel treatment may be more often applied to black prisoners, such as the infamous Angola 3.

Occupied Palestinian Territory:
Defence for Children International, an international children’s rights NGO, has released a staggering report on abuse of Palestinian children in Israeli detention. “The first 48 hours after a child is taken are the most important because that’s when the most abuse happens,” DCI’s lawyer Gerard Horten told Al Jazeera in an interview, echoing the findings of an upcoming IRCT report on children and torture in the Philippines, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Most children are detained for allegations involving throwing stones at Israeli troops. Some are as young as 12, and can be detained for months without access to a lawyer or their parents. A majority of those detained faced verbal threats or harassment, physical abuse, interrogation by officials, and were blindfolded and restrained. Read the full report here [PDF].

Human rights group in Mexico have celebrated a recent Supreme Court ruling that military human rights violations may be turned over to civilian, rather than military, courts. “The Supreme Court ruled Thursday to send the case of Jethro Ramses Sanchez, a 27-year-old auto mechanic who authorities say was tortured and killed by soldiers at a military base last year, to civilian court,” reports The Washington Post. Human rights groups say this ruling may be a blow to the consistent impunity for military human rights violations in Mexico.

torture cases in Argentina have been widely reported in the media recently. And just this week, a report emerged that there have been as many as 7,000 human rights violations in Argentine prisons. Some point to the lack of reform in the prison system since the military junta that ended in the 1980s and that was marked by several thousand extra-judicial killings and torture, the so-called ‘dirty war’. Read about a visit to many of the sites of the ‘dirty war’ by IRCT’s Brita Sydhoff here.


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