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Urgent Appeal to Protect Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Prisons

Ref: 26/2020 

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) closely follows up the conditions of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, in light of the spread of the novel Coronavirus in Israel. PCHR warns of the deteriorating health conditions of prisoners, especially that Israeli occupation forces failed to comply with Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners stipulated in international covenants, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention.

As part of PCHR’s follow-up to the conditions of Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli prisons, PCHR’s delegated lawyer in Israel requested to visit his clients to check on their health conditions as information emerged of infected cases inside Israeli prisons. On 18 March 2020, PCHR’s lawyer received an oral response from the Israel Prison Service (IPS) denying him from visiting until further notice, based on the state of emergency declared in Israel as hundreds of COVID-19 cases were announced and several deaths.

PCHR cautioned of the catastrophic conditions for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons due to the lack of adequate healthcare, and the death of several prisoners due to deliberate medical negligence. There are about 5,000 prisoners in the Israeli prisons, including 43 females, 180 children, and 700 patients with various diseases, and dozens with chronic or serious illnesses.

In light of these circumstances and the wide-spread  of Coronavirus, PCHR:

  1. Holds Israel fully responsible for any harm that may be inflicted upon Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons and stresses the need to provide a direct link between the prisoners and their families to check on their conditions, especially with the suspension of visits and direct meetings with them;
  2. Calls upon Israel to assume its legal responsibilities for the conditions of the prisoners, and provide them with the necessary medical care, for fear of an outbreak of the disease between them, considering the deterioration of their living conditions, including the overcrowding prison departments with large numbers of prisoners and adjacent beds per room;
  3. Calls upon the international community to pressure the occupying state to immediately release the prisoners, especially women, children and patients in addition to prisoners, who served two-thirds of the sentence period, and the imperative to provide the internationally recognized minimum healthcare;
  4. Calls for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to meet their legal and humanitarian responsibilities, intensify their visits of the prisoners and to ensure that IPS provides the minimum levels of medical care for them; and
  5. Calls on the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories to immediately intervene to protect the prisoners and to pressure Israel to immediately release them.