Palestinian Centre for Human Rights



Ref: 123/2004

DATE: 22/08/2004

TIME: 1200 GMT






In light of the declaration by the Israeli  Security Minister, Tzahi Hanegbi, to fight the demands of Palestinian and Arab Detainees “until death” the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights calls on governments, international organizations, NGO’s, solidarity groups, trade unions and other concerned parties to take immediate action in support of the striking prisoners.


There are 7500 Arab and Palestinian political prisoners detained in Israeli prisons and military detention facilities.  3500 of them are currently on hunger strike. Their conditions of detention have continued to deteriorate over a long period of time and this deterioration in conditions has been accelerated since the start of the current Intifada.  Prisoners are routinely: subjected to torture, degrading treatment and humiliation; prevented from having family visits; subjected to humiliating strip searches in front of other prisoners; placed in solitary confinement for extended periods of time;  provided with inadequate and unhealthy food; and prevented from pursuing educational and other recreational activities.  Such treatment is unacceptable and in violation of all internationally recognized and agreed standards of behavior.  PCHR insists on the immediate application of the Fourth Geneva Convention and its additional protocols to the treatment of these prisoners.


The Israeli authorities have publicly committed themselves to using methods of extreme psychological and physical pressure to bring the prisoners off hunger strike, in violation of their right to express their demands “through any media of [their] choice” (Article 19 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights).  They have explicitly stated that they will use the experiences of dealing with prisoners on hunger strike in South Africa, Ireland, Turkey and Latin America to break the strike.


The hunger strike was initiated when prisoners decided that they had exhausted all other means of realizing their goal of improved conditions of detention and fair treatment by the Israeli authorities.  Their key demands include:



(A full list of the prisoner’s demands is attached as Annex 2 to this Urgent Action)


PCHR requests that the Israeli authorities immediately apply the basic legal minimum standards of treatment to the prisoners as defined in International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law.  PCHR insists that the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention comply with their article 1  obligation to “ensure respect” for the Convention and exert pressure on the Israeli government to provide prisoners with their basic rights. 

PCHR calls on all human rights groups, trade unions, solidarity groups, political parties and international organizations to:





For further information about how to help contact PCHR at:






Annex 1 of this document provides draft letters to be used in the requested urgent action.







To whom it may concern,


I wish to express my grave concern over the conditions of treatment being afforded to Palestinian and Arab prisoners being detained in Israeli prisons and military detention facilities.  The recent comments by the Security Minister, Tzahi Hanegbi, that the Israeli government would allow the striking prisoners to starve to death were a serious disappointment. 


If Israel wishes to illustrate to the world that it is a genuine democratic state then it must do so by applying internationally agreed standards to the treatment of all people.  I request that you alter both your policy and practice towards Palestinian and Arab Prisoners being held in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.  In particular I would remind you of your obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention, under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 11 and 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.


I further request that you allow full and free access for international medical and humanitarian organizations to the striking prisoners so that their health and well-being can be independently assessed during their time on hunger strike.


Yours sincerely,




Israeli Prime Minister

Mr Ariel Sharon

Email: pm_eng@pmo.gov.il



Israeli Minister for Foreign Affairs            Israeli Minister for Justice

Mr Zelman Shoval                                           Mr Yosef Lapid

Ministry of Foreign Affairs                               Ministry of Justice

9 Yitzhak Rabin Blvd. 91490                            Salah - a – Din 29,
Kiryat Ben-Gurion                                           PO BOX 49029
91035                                           Jerusalem 91490
Tel.: ++ 972-2-5303111                                Tel.: ++ 972-2-

Fax: ++ 972-2-5303367                                 Fax: ++ 972-2-6466357

Email: sar@mfa.gov.il                                   Email: sar@justice.gov.il





To whom it may concern,


I am writing to you in your capacity as a High Contracting Party to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and the additional protocols of 1977.  I wish to express my deep concern at the treatment being afforded to Palestinian and Arab political prisoners being detained by the Israeli government under extremely severe conditions. 


The detainees, many of whom are being held without charge, are subjected to extremely poor treatment including prohibitions on family visits, torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, inadequate health care and access to medical facilities and inadequate and nutritionally deficient supplies of food.


Under the Fourth Geneva Convention political prisoners detained by an occupying power are guaranteed basic standards of treatment.  Unfortunately Palestinian and Arab prisoners are not being afforded these rights.  Furthermore under common Article 1 of the Geneva Convention the High Contracting Parties to the Convention have an obligation to “ensure respect” for its provisions. 


In light of this, and the determination of the Israeli government to resist the calls for fair treatment by the prisoners “until they die”, I urgently request you to exert severe pressure on the state of Israel, its political, judicial and military authorities to apply the rules of the Conventions as well as other internationally recognized instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Minimum Standards for the Treatment of Prisoners.


If the Israeli government fail to apply these standards I request that you take firm action against them along the lines of action taken against the South African Apartheid regime.


Yours sincerely,











One:  Family and/or Lawyers Visits


1.  To remove the glass/plastic barrier between prisoners and visitors;

2.  To increase the period of family visits to one hour;

3.  To allow personal contact with children, as in the past;

4.  To allow all family members and relatives to visit;

5.  To allow brothers and sisters to visit, as in the past;

6.  To allow private visits (without barriers);

7.  To allow second and third degree relatives to visit;

8.  To relocate detainees/prisoners in areas close to their residential areas;

9.  To relocate prisoners who are immediate relatives to the same prison;

10. To allow personal belongings and clothes to be brought during visits;

11. To allow prisoners to take photos with family members and children;

12. To allow family visits for Arab prisoners once every 6 months for at least four hours;

13. To allow visitors to bring with them an unlimited number of photographs of relatives;

14. To allow visitors to bring with them bed-covers, watches, Palestinian head scarves, head wear, etc.;

15.  To make family visits on Fridays, as in the past;

16.  To bring in families to visit as soon as they arrive at the prison.  No delays either at the prison or at checkpoints;

17.  To allow prisoners to take canteen food and drinks to the visit, without limitations;

18.  To allow prisoners to take to any kind of drinks to the visit and not limit it to "Sprite";

19.  To allow prisoners to be in plain clothes during the visit and not restricted to uniforms of certain colors or design;

20.  To allow prisoners' handwork to be given out at the visit, after coordination;

21.  To allow visitors to bring in all kinds of cigarettes, audio-tapes, and video-tapes during the visit.


Two:  Health Care / Treatment

1.  To develop and expand clinics and equip them for emergency cases especially at Nafha prison and to ensure a practicing physician is at the clinic 7 days a week;

2.  To allow a Palestinian prisoner to be present and working at the clinic;

3.  To conduct surgery for prisoners immediately (without the usual intentional delay);

4.  To allow physicians from outside to be able to check prisoners and to ease the procedures in doing so;

5.  To widen the range of physicians to include all specialties;

6.  To allow dental surgery/ teeth implants, at the expense of prisoners, by their own doctors;

7.  To perform kidney, cornea and prosthetic transplants for those prisoners who have been waiting for years;

8.  To allow the purchase of medical mattresses, pillows, shoes and some pharmaceuticals through the canteen;

9.  To solve all problems related to the hospital in Ramleh;

10.  An overall medical checkup for every prisoner at least once a year;

11.  An optician to visit to every prison on a regular and constant basis; eye checkups for every prisoner once every 6 months, changing of glasses when needed, allow the use of eye lenses; and to provide all needed supplies to solve health problems related to vision;

12.  To allow prisoners to have the equipment necessary to measure blood pressure and sugar levels where needed.


Three:  Food

1.  To prepare and define a list of quantities of all sorts of food that prisoners have the right to receive and to provide this list to prisoners’ representatives;

2.  To change the basket of vegetables and fruits and end the practice of the administration taking part of it;

3.  To allow prisoners to buy vegetables, fruits, fish, and meats of all sorts on a monthly basis;

4.  To allow prisoners in all prisons to prepare their own food according to their customs and religions;

5.  To give back kitchen equipment that was taken away from prisoners in all "security" prisons’

6.  To change old kitchen utensils and replace them with new ones;

7.  To open bakeries and allow Palestinian prisoners to work at them; to allow bread to be brought in during visits.


Four:  Collective Punishment

1.  To end all collective punishments;

2.  To end the policy of fines;

3.  To end the policy of confiscating personal belongings and punishing prisoners by denying them family visits;

4.  To return all money confiscated from prisoners’ accounts permitting them to use them in enhancing the health care and the education of prisoners;

5.  To compensate prisoners for every item that was damaged intentionally through raids on cell-blocks;

6.  To define the maximum isolation period, as a punishment, to a week and to provide humane detention conditions in isolation cells:  access to toilets, a washing sink, a two hour recreation period, to allow a fan, to allow books and radio and canteen products, not to handcuff prisoners inside the cells, to end the policy of handcuffing prisoners while meeting the prison administration.


Five:  Isolation

1.  To end all practices and policies of solitary confinement; allow all those prisoners in isolation back to general sections


Six:  Searching and Security Checks

1.  To end the practice of body search by hand and to restrict it to electronic scanning;

2.  To stop searching children 14 years old and under during visits;

3.  A complete end to strip searches;

4.  End night searches and the practice of Matsada unit - dissolve it or end its services;

5.  Not to handcuff prisoners during the search;

6.  Never to damage or confiscate personal belongings while engaged in searches;

7.  To stop searching prisoners each time they leave to the recreation area or to prayers;

8.  Security search be limited to only once a day maximum and not to force prisoners outside the section during the search;

9.  Security search to be conducted during the recreation period;

10.  To limit the overall, general, search to once every 6 months;


Seven:  Phone Calls

1.  To install pay phones in prison sections and/or yards and/or cells or allow mobile phones in every cell or for every prisoner;

2.  To allow prisoners’ representatives to make phone calls to prisoners’ organizations and lawyers and to Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners Affairs;

3.  To remove all signal-distortion equipment - known to cause various health problems including cancer.


Eight:  Movement within each section and the recreation area

1.  To increase the recreation time to four hours a day, as used to be the case;

2.  To restore visits between section and cells to day-long visits;

3.  To leave cell doors within each section open all day;

4.  To restore the right of elderly, ill prisoners, those who spent over ten years of imprisonment, and prisoners with special needs to get to yards and recreation areas freely;

5.  To allow university students to chose recreation time suitable for them;

6.  To allow prisoners representatives to be able to visit sections, recreational areas, and to be present at family visits in order to be able to follow up on issues and concerns and solve any problem without making this right dependant on the mood of security guards;

7.  To open the gate to the recreational area every half an hour to enable prisoners to get to the area or back to sections;

8.  To allow freedom of movement within each section without restricting the time or period;

9.  To install water pipes in each section;

10.  To restore the weekly general cleaning day as in the past;

11.  To install water pipes in the recreation area and the yard as used to be the case;

12.  To restore the recreation time from 15:00 to 17:00 and from 17:00 to 19:00;

13.  To allow working prisoners to stay at the recreation area until 20:00;

14.  Not to transfer a prisoner from any prison before spending 2 years in it, unless the prisoner applies for a transfer;

15.  To cancel the policy of moving certain prisoners constantly around the prisons, never settling in one;

16.  To allow Friday Imams to be able to move from one section to another;

17.  To allow having events, debates, celebrations in the recreation areas and yards as in the past;

18.  Freedom to transfer among cells within one section without any sort of restriction;

19.  To remove the ban on practicing Karate during the recreation period;


Nine:  Canteen facilities

1.  To allow buying from Arab sources and end the monopoly;

2.  To cancel the additional 17% tax;

3.  To unify the prices for all prisons;

4.  To end all restrictions on the items allowed;

5.  To form an investigation committee to check on the legality of the 17% additional tax and on the right of prisoners to benefit from the profit of the canteen;


Ten:  Tools, Instruments, private and general equipment

1.  To allow the following to be purchased at the canteen by every prisoner: a light-bulb for reading, electronic dictionary without restricting the brand, electric shaving-machine, and electric fan;

2.  To install air ventilation in the cells and section as well as air conditioning;

3.  To install air conditioning at the visiting area and waiting cells;

4.  To provide electric kettle;

5.  To provide an electric toaster for each cell;

6.  To provide a small refrigerator in each cell;

7.  A small photocopier in each section;

8.  To install an Antenna for the radio;

9.  To allow winter jackets;

10.  To allow waist belts;

11.  To allow sport ropes;

12.  To allow to have cameras in each section and to be able to take collective photos;

13.  To allow fruit knives in each cell;


Eleven:  Counting

1.  To allow prisoners in the upper beds not to step down at the morning count and to limit to them to just raising themselves up in their beds;

2.  To be content with a show of hands for those who are in toilets at the time of counting, or to pass the cell and return to it later, prisoners to try to avoid using the toilet around the time of the count, unless it's urgent.


Twelve:  Transfer, Travel and waiting (passing) sections

1.  To allow prisoners to have canteen products with them while being transferred (canned food, etc.);

2.  To be moved directly to the buses without being held and delayed in waiting rooms;

3.  To change seats in the buses to more comfortable ones;

4.  Each prisoner to be handcuffed separately from others and to stop using the plastic handcuffs and replace them with the metal ones;

5.  To allow prisoners representatives to meet newly transferred prisoners at the bus as they arrive;

6.  To improve all conditions at the passing (waiting) sections in each of Asqalan, Ramleh, and Birsheva prisons;

7.  To remove the darkened windows of the buses.


Thirteen:  Working Facilities

1.  To increase the number of working prisoners in the various facilities;

2.  To restore kitchens, laundries, and sewing and allow Palestinian prisoners to work at these facilities;

3.  To allow at least two prisoners to work in the section (corridor) outside the cells till 22:30 and extend their recreation time till 20:00;

4.  To re-allow a prisoner to work in the yard and recreation areas, as in the past, and to make available a storage room and a room for working and work tools;

5.  To allow a prisoner to work at the clinic;

6.  To restore the special recreation period for workers;

7.  To raise payment for workers;

8.  To allow an additional worker at the library;

9.  To allow a worker to fix electric equipment in each section as in the past;

10.  To allow all tools for hairdressing and to change them once every 6 months.


Fourteen:  Education at Universities

1.  To allow prisoners to study at Palestinian, Arab, and International Universities;

2.  To end the policy of punishing prisoners by denying them the right to continue their education;

3.  To allow newspapers, journals and magazines without any delay;

4.  To allow purchasing different electronic dictionaries not limited to one brand;

5.  To allow all cells to have access to a computer and not only students;

6.  To allocate study rooms and halls and to reopen all libraries;

7.  To allow stationary without limitation in type or quantities;

8.  To allow photocopying of research material and educational material.


Fifteen:  General Demands

1.  To return to prisoners all the cans (canned food) and cups and all that has been confiscated in Asqalan and Nafha after the last raids;

2.  To allow handwork and to be able to purchase all needed at the canteen or to be able to get it during visits;

3.  To remove asbestos from the cells to improve ventilation in cells and sections;

4.  To provide, once again, what the administrations used to provide at their expense: tooth paste, tooth brush, soap, cleaning and hygiene provisions, etc.;

5.  To make available lists of IPS rules, in every section, in Arabic;

6.  To increase the number of allowed TV channels;

7.  To re-install wooden boards to all beds, change the beds each year, paint cells each year, and to install sides to the beds;

8.  To remove all male guards from female sections;

9.  To improve all conditions and to meet all needs of imprisoned minors;

10.  To end the use of arbitrary transfer of prisoners from one prison to another;

11.  To remove one bed in each cell to deal with overcrowding;

12.  To end the use of the special classification of certain prisoners, such as, "prisoners sentenced for serious offences" and end all unjustified punishments against them and to allow them to be able to work at various facilities in the prisons

13.  To implement the Fourth Geneva Convention and all international human rights standards and agreements;

14.  To use only the buses to transfer prisoners between prisons and/or to and from court hearings;

15.  To allow visits on special occasions as religious holidays

16.  To double the number and the period of visits during holidays;

17.  To allow prisoners to send out written material: diaries, poems, studies, prose, etc. during visits;

18.  To apply the same definition of life sentence as is applied to Israeli prisoners and to seriously consider the provision of parole;

19.  Not to interfere in Friday prayers and/or preaching and not to punish preachers for whatever they say;

20.  To allow hard covers for books and never to remove them;

21.  To separate shower area from toilets;

22.  To provide prosthetics for those prisoners with amputations.