Physicians for Human Rights: End Isolation for Rabin's Killer

Organization warns that psychological damage caused by solitary confinement manifests as depression, irrational fears, psychotic episodes.

The Physicians for Human Rights organization on Sunday called on Israel to end the solitary confinement of Yigal Amir, who is serving a life sentence for his murder of then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995.

The call comes the day before a Supreme Court hearing on the matter requested by Amir, who shot the 73-year-old Rabin as he made his way off the stage at the close of a peace rally in Tel Aviv.

The far-right Orthodox Amir pleaded guilty to killing Rabin, as he had opposed the prime minister's efforts to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians.

PHR said that the Israel Prison Service, which has systematically opposed ending Amir's solitary confinement, is aware of the ramifications for a person's mental state caused by this treatment.

It noted that following its appeal with the Israeli human rights organization the Center for the Defense of the Individual, a joint panel from the Prison Service and the Defense Ministry wrote in 1996 that solitary confinement had deep psychological impact.

"Psychological damage caused by isolation will manifest in a number of ways," PHR wrote in a statement released Sunday, "including difficulty sleeping, depression, irrational fears, psychotic episodes such as visual and auditory hallucinations, episodes of paranoia, the experience of distortions in time and space, confusion and cognitive difficulties."

Prisoners in solitary confinement suffer from deep depression twice as often as prisoners in the general population and international treaties consider solitary confinement to be torture, according to the organization.

Arguing for Amir to remain in isolation, the state claims that Amir could incite other prisoners, and that entering the prison population would constitute a threat on his life.

The organization responded to these claims by saying that, "Physicians for Human Rights calls upon representatives of the state to study other ways of dealing with the prisoner that will protect his person and his health."

"The state's solutions must negatively affect as little as possible the physical and psychological health of prisoners, including Yigal Amir," the organization added.