Palestinian Prisoners’ Day marks the deteriorating situation of prisoners
Today, 17 April 2013, marks the Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, an
international day of solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israel, observed
since 1979. This day commemorates the first ever release of Palestinian
prisoners from Israeli prisons on 17 April 1974 under the terms of a prisoners
exchange deal between the authorities.
As we mark the Palestinian Prisoners’ Day this year, many
Palestinians continue to suffer in Israeli jails and their situation has only
deteriorated over time. Israel’s persistent violation of prisoners’ rights,
during the period April 2012 to April 2013, resulted in the deaths of 2
prisoners and the deportation of another to the Gaza Strip.
Israel continued with its policy of forcible transfers and
deportation of prisoners, which was demonstrated through the case of Ayman
al-Shawarna, a former prisoner from Dura, Hebron, in the West Bank. Ayman was
released in March 2013 on the conditions that he would end his 261 days long
hunger strike and be forcibly transferred to the Gaza Strip.
Moreover, in the past few months, the Israeli prison administration
authorities manifested their policies of medical negligence and torture against
Palestinian prisoners. On 2 April 2013, Maysara Abu Hamadiya, another
Palestinian prisoner from Hebron, died in the Soroka hospital in Be’ersheba,
Israel, because he was denied the necessary health care services despite having
been diagnosed with laryngeal cancer. According to Abu Hamdiya’s lawyer, Jawad
Paulis, his hands and feet were bound even at the hospital and the Israeli
guards refused to remove the restraints during the visit.
Few days before Abu Hamdiya’s death, on 23 February 2013, Arafat
Shalish Jaradat, 30, also from Hebron, passed away in Megiddo prison in Israel.
The results of his autopsy conducted by Saber al-‘Aloul, a Palestinian doctor,
with the assistance of 2 Israeli doctors revealed that Jaradat had sustained
many injuries shortly before his death. The autopsy report concluded that all
the injuries resulted from torture practices.
The Israeli forces continued to restrict the Palestinian prisoners’
right to family visits by obstructing of the visit programs and by imposing
constrains on these programs. Further,
during visits, the Israeli forces imposed measures including stringent searches
of visitors. They also hindered any physical contact between the prisoner and
his family by placing glass boards between them. In particular, the families of prisoners from
the Gaza Strip suffer from the Israel’s persistent denial of their right to
visit their imprisoned family members.
Although Israeli resumed the visit programs for families from Gaza
in July 2011, after having suspended it for 5 years, many restraints have been
imposed on this program. These restrictions do not permit the prisoners’
children and siblings from visiting them. Moreover, the visits under the
program are irregular and not scheduled properly.
These violations form part of a systematic policy adopted by
Israeli forces against Palestinian prisoners. This policy includes subjecting
the prisoners to cruel, inhumane and degrading conditions through practices of
solitary confinement and deprivation of family visits. The Israeli authorities
also prohibit Palestinian prisoners from receiving academic education, in
accordance with a decision issued by the Israeli Prison Service on 20 July 2011.
According to the figures and statistics available to Palestinian
Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), the number of arrests have significantly
increased, as Israeli forces arrested 3848 Palestinians in 2012, an average of
11 arrests a day, which is an increase of 26% as compared to 2011. Since the beginning of 2013, Israeli forces
have arrested 1070 civilians, which is an increase of 8.4% than the rate during
the same time last year.
According to the available data on the Palestinian prisoners inside
Israeli jails and detention facilities, there are 235 children, 14 women, 14
members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, two former ministers and 185
Palestinians under administrative detention.
On the Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, PCHR draws attention to the
escalated violations of Palestinian prisoners’ rights and the deterioration of
their conditions because of Israel’s insistence in adopting a series of
measures, which violate the principles of international human rights law and
international humanitarian law. PCHR also draws attention to the international
silence regarding these violations.
Since its establishment, PCHR has systematically and continually
followed up the cases of thousands of prisoners in Israeli jails. PCHR
has provided legal aid to prisoners and their families, and has worked
continuously to expose the Israeli violations carried out against them.
In this context:
1- PCHR calls
upon the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to
fulfill their obligations under the Convention;
2- PCHR calls
upon international human rights organizations to follow up cases of Palestinian
prisoners and request their governments to exert pressure on Israel to stop its
illegal practices against Palestinian prisoners and release them;
3- PCHR calls
upon the European Union to activate Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association
Agreement, which provides that both sides must respect human rights as a
precondition for economic cooperation between the EU states and Israel;
4- PCHR calls
upon the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman
and Degrading Treatment or Punishment to open an investigation in the death of
prisoners Jaradat and Abu Hamdiya, as this demonstrates a prevailing phenomena
in Israeli detention facilities and jails;
5- PCHR calls
upon the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on
Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 to follow up the afore-mentioned
incidents and report on it to the United Nations; and
6- PCHR calls
upon the United Nations and the bodies of the International Committee of the
Red Cross (ICRC) and the international community to exert pressure on Israel to
improve the detention conditions of Palestinian prisoners, to stop torture and
open prisons for observers until the prisoners are release.