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Palestinian prisoner dies in Israeli prison



Palestinian prisoner dies in Israeli prison

Published 13th January 1997 at 12.00 hours GMT


Riy’ad Mahmood Hamooda Odwan died on 12th January 1997 in Beersheba Prison in Israel. The apparent circumstances surrounding his death highlight the issues of the ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons and Israel’s violations of the 1949 IV Geneva Convention.

Odwan’s family was informed of his death at around 7:30pm local time yesterday evening by a phone-call from a person claiming to be a prisoner at the same prison. The prisoner informed them that Odwan had died of a heart attack shortly after the Ramadan break-fast meal at around 5.00pm local time. Seeing that he was in difficulty, other inmates requested the prison administration to aid him, but according to the informer there was a long delay in the response to this request. The prisoners were later informed that Odwan was dead on arrival at the hospital.

Riy’ad Odwan was born 16th August 1953, and was resident of Shaboura Refugee Camp in Rafah City, Gaza. He was married and the father of eight children. He was arrested on 12th April 1991 for stabbing an Israeli soldier near the Israeli Civil Administration Headquarters in Rafah. Upon apprehension he was shot by Israeli soldiers in the chest, both legs and his left arm (which was left paralysed), before being arrested.

Odwan was sentenced to 24 years in prison, and spent all of his sentence in prisons in Israel. The first two and half years were spent in Ramle Prison; the following eight months in Ashkelon Prison; and then he was moved to Beersheba Prison where he was held in solitary confinement for 8 months. Both Ramle and Beersheba are “isolation” prisons. The conditions in these prisons are more severe and ill-treatment more widely reported. Beersheba, in particular, is reputed to have the worst conditions among Israeli prisons.

Odwan’s wife gave testimony to the PCHR on 4th December 1995 because of her concern that he was being maltreated in prison. She informed the PCHR that he had suffered from respiratory complications (asthma) since 1982, and that upon her visit to Odwan in prison on 23rd November 1995 he appeared pale, weak and in a very

poor state of health. During the visit Odwan stated that the prison administration regularly delayed the medical treatment he was supposed to receive.

Communications from Odwan’s family informed the PCHR that approximately six weeks ago he complained of severe chest pains. He was subsequently transferred to a hospital for examination where a bullet was found lodged in his chest that had not been removed since his shooting prior to his arrest in 1991.

PCHR Comments:


      1. Odwan’s death highlights the issue of ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli gaols. This is confirmed by periodical reports on prison conditions by local and international NGOs including Amnesty International and the ICRC.

      2. The circumstances surrounding Odwans death are not yet confirmed. No medical findings have been announced as to the cause of death. However, preliminary information received by the Centre suggests that there was neglect of his serious health condition by the prison administration.

      3. Accordingly the Centre demands an independent investigation to follow-up this information and to ascertain the circumstances of his death.

      4. The international community must pressure Israel to respect standards of international law with respect to prisoners, in particular the 1949 IV Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which prohibits the transfer of prisoners from cccupied territory inside the territory of the Occupying Power. Israel must also conform with the standards set by the 1955 United Nations Minimum Standards for the Treatment of Prisoners.

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