Dozens of Palestinian prisoners held in isolation or in solitary confinement in Israeli prisons have developed sever mental disorders, a recent report by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) revealed Sunday.
The report focused on inmates who must be separated from the general prison population due to security reasons, and on those suffering pre-existing mental difficulties or illnesses. Some of them, it noted, are held on various conditions of confinement for as long as 20 years.
The report, composed by the PHR and the Palestinian human rights groups A-Damir, was based on interviews with 19 Palestinian prisoners, as well as various psychiatric reports and visits conducted by psychiatrists appointed by the groups.
"The prison authorities use isolation and solitary confinement as default measures, an easy alternative to less detrimental therapeutic measures," said the report.
Dr. Zeev Weiner, a general practitioner, psychiatrist, and psychotherapist who volunteers with PHR, told Ynet that "prolongs isolation can substantially risk the inmates mental health, and may result in long-term, sometimes irreversible damage."
The report further suggested that Palestinian prisoners held in isolation are held in different, sometimes worse conditions than that of their Jewish counterparts; and are often denied visitation and phone rights, for what the prison authorities cite as security reasons.
The little mental health care available within prison, continued the report, is limited to drug therapy. Moreover, the majority of prison-assigned psychiatrists do not speak Arabic.
PHR and A-Damir end their report by pleading with the Israel Medical Association to fight against the isolation of mentally ill Palestinian prisoners.
PHR has also called on the Israeli Psychiatric Association to publicly voice its objection to the conditions in which such prisoners are being held.
The Israel Prison Service was unavailable for comment.