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Palestinian Prisoners’ Day: PCHR Fears Coronavirus Spread in Israeli Prisons and Detention Centers

Ref: 36/2020   


Palestinian Prisoners’ Day is celebrated every year on the 17th of April, which was endorsed by the Palestinian National Council in 1974 as a national day to pay tribute to Palestinian prisoners and their sacrifices, and to support, advocate and promote their right to freedom. Ever since, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Day has been an annual day for celebration and to remind the whole world of the Palestinian prisoners’ cause and the daily violations they suffer inside Israeli prisons, which violate all international and humanitarian covenants.

Across Israeli prisons, Palestinian prisoners suffer numerous and endless violations of their rights, as Israeli occupation authorities purposefully and persistently neglect their obligations under the international humanitarian law (IHL). Certainly, these practices fall under a systematic Israeli policy to humiliate and degrade the dignity of prisoners through arbitrary measures.

The Israeli practices and violations against prisoners have enhanced and intensified the suffering of Palestinian prisoners for several decades, most prominently the:

  • Inhuman and cruel detention conditions;
  • Psychological and physical torture, and solitary confinement;
  • Administrative detention;
  • Unjust military orders and decisions;
  • Ban on visits from medical professionals; and
  • Ban on visits from international organizations and investigation committees.

This year, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Day is commemorated extremely bitter and cruel conditions under the coronavirus pandemic. Israeli occupation authorities did not suffice with their daily violations of prisoners’ rights, as it chose to intensify their suffering through its systematic policy of medical neglect against prisoners, abusing their pressing needs and right to health care in these dangerous times.

PCHR expresses its extreme concern over the catastrophic humanitarian crisis that may ensue among Palestinian prisoners, especially that the Israeli prison administration has a bad track record in dealing with Palestinian prisoners. Over decades, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners died under extremely poor health conditions due to the deliberate medical negligence policy.

In the face of the extremely grim and grave implications of the coronavirus pandemic, Israeli authorities have yet to take any of the measures it had announced for the protection of Palestinian prisoners, as the authorities’ interventions have been limited measures that are inherently discriminative and in violation of prisoners’ rights and privileges, including banning prisoners’ families from visiting their sons and preventing prisoners from meeting their lawyers.

On the Palestinian Prisoners’ Day and every day, PCHR reiterates the need to stand for the systematic and inhumane Israeli practices against Palestinian prisoners, and:

  • Calls upon the international community to intervene urgently in fulfillment of its legal and moral obligations towards Palestinians, and take effective measures to pressure  Israel to comply with its obligations towards Palestinian prisoners according to the rules of international law, including the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners in addition to the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions;
  • Calls for allowing the medical staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Palestinian prisoners and monitor their health conditions to ensure that they enjoy their right to health care and medical treatment; and
  • Reiterates its call for the immediate release of all prisoners, especially minors, patients, elderlies, and women.