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Iceland 2022

Solitary confinement in pretrial detention was used excessively and existing safeguards were insufficient. There were serious concerns about the application of solitary confinement to children, neurodiverse people or those who have mental health conditions.

Torture and other ill-treatment

In April, the 4th periodic review of the UN Committee Against Torture raised a series of concerns about the legal framework for solitary confinement in pretrial detention and its use for prolonged periods and on children and people with disabilities.1 The Committee cast doubt on Iceland’s account of the safeguards used to ensure it was only used when necessary. It also criticized the government for failing to ensure that the legislation defined torture as a specific crime consistent with the UN Convention against Torture. In response, the government stated that it would revise its legislative and procedural framework.

Official data indicated the widespread application of solitary confinement during pretrial detention; initial court orders for solitary confinement were issued to 61% of pretrial detainees in 2021. Despite some overall reduction in this number over the past decade, the reduction was insufficient and inconsistent. Ten of the 825 people held in pretrial solitary confinement between 2012 and 2021 were aged between 15 and 17 years. These figures suggest that the application of solitary confinement is being used much more widely than only in exceptional cases as a last resort, as required by UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules). According to the Prison and Probation Administration, the longest period of pretrial solitary confinement was 57 days in 2013 and 37 days in 2021.

The legal framework in Iceland does not prevent the imposition of solitary confinement on individuals at particular risk of severe harm such as children, neurodiverse people and those with mental health conditions or disabilities.

  1. “Iceland: Submission to the UN Committee Against Torture, 73rd Session, 19 April-13 May 2022”, 31 March