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Palestinian Prisoners’ Day

by Addaneer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association |
April 23, 2009
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Fight Back News Service is circulating the following statement from the Addaneer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association on occasion of Palestinian Prisoners’ Day.

Addaneer [Arabic for conscience] Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association is a Palestinian non-governmental, civil institution which focuses on human rights issues. Established in 1992 by a group of activists interested in human rights, the center's activities focus on offering support for Palestinian prisoners, advocating the rights of political prisoners and working to end torture through monitoring, legal procedures and solidarity campaigns.

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association Public Statement

17 April 2009:

The Continuous Violation of Palestinian Political Prisoners’ Rights

17 April 2009 marks yet another Palestinian Prisoners’ Day in the occupied territory with nearly 8,400 Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons and detention centers, among them 61 women, 423 children and approximately 550 administrative detainees, indefinitely held without charges or trial. The total number additionally includes 41 Palestinian Legislative Council members and 122 long-term prisoners serving sentences of 20 years and above.

Addameer is extremely concerned over Israel’s continued arrests, torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees, especially children under the age of 18. In 2008 alone, the Israeli Occupying Forces arrested nearly 4,960 Palestinians in more than 10,200 raids across the West Bank and Gaza Strip[1]. In addition, hundreds of Gazans were arrested in Israel’s most recent aggression on the Strip (27/12/2008 – 18/01/2008) and used as human shields during military operations and house searches. An approximate 100 of these are still hel d in Israel, including 10 “unlawful combatants” captured on the basis of the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law of 2002, which allows for the indefinite administrative detention of foreign nationals.

In 2008, Addameer Association has documented at least 30 cases of torture and ill-treatment during arrest, transfer to detention and in interrogation centers aiming at coercing detainees into confessions. Abusive techniques included beatings, slapping and kicking – in some cases in front of family members – excessive use of blindfolds and painful handcuffs for prolonged periods of time, threats of torture and killing and lengthy transfers to detention centers without access to basic human needs. In addition, detainees were exposed to psychological pressure in collaborators’ rooms, denied lawyers’ visits, placed in solitary confinement, shackled in contorted positions and finally denied access to hygiene products, clean clothes, the use of sho wers and toilets for days and sometimes weeks.

Addameer stresses that detention conditions have not improved in comparison with last year and still fall far below accepted international standards, with overcrowding, humidity, the lack of natural light and a poor diet affecting both the mental and physical well-being of all detainees. Medical neglect seems to have become an institutionalized policy of the Israeli Prison Service, leading to the death of two detainees in 2008 – Fadel Shahin, of the Gaza Strip who died in Beersheba’s Eshel prison on 29/02/2008 and Jum’a Musa who passed away on 24/12/2008 in Ramla prison. The denial of specialized gender-sensitive medical care and counseling to female prisoners persisted, while their right to regular contact with family members, including children remained unfulfilled. Additionally, women prisoners were systematically exposed to degrading strip searches. The Israeli Prison Service (IPS) continued depriving child detainees of adequate schooling in line with the official Palestinian curriculum, whereas adult prisoners did not see their right to higher education in Arabic fulfilled. Rather than a right, the IPS views education as a privilege and makes it conditional on a prisoner’s d isciplinary record. Similarly, sanctions against prisoners from the Gaza Strip persisted. Since June 2007 when Israel unilaterally suspended the ICRC Gaza Family Visit Programme, 900 Gazan prisoners have continuously been deprived of the right to family visits.

Finally, Addameer reiterates its belief that Israel systematically arrests Palestinian political leaders to achieve political gains and thus keeps them in detention as “bargaining chips”. Following the collapse of Egypt-mediated prisoner exchange negotiations with Hamas on 18 March 2009, the Israeli Occupying Forces have raided West Bank towns and kidnapped 10 Palestinian political leaders, including 4 Palestinian Legislative Council members believed to be associated with Hamas. All of the arrested were consequently placed under administrative detention for a 6 month-period. Addameer reminds the international community that these arrests follow the Israeli government’s decision to implement sanctions against Hamas a nd Islamic Jihad prisoners as a way of ensuring the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit. On 29 March the Israeli government accepted recommendations presented by a special Ministerial Committee aiming at downgrading detention conditions of prisoners identified with Hamas and Islamic Jihad. These punitive measures included: lowering the number of family visits to a minimum, preventing prisoners from either higher or secondary education, banning them from watching selected TV channels and listening to the radio; denying access to newspapers and lastly, placing restrictions on prisoners’ canteen accounts.

Consequently, some of the sanctions were implemented: children under the age of 6 visiting their fathers imprisoned in Gilboa were prevented from the usually allowed 10-15 minutes of physical contact at the end of the visit, while female prisoners affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad detained in Hasharon prison were threatened to be denied the right to family visits.

In light of the above and in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners, Addameer Association calls upon the international community to pressure Israel to ensure its compliance with international la w. More specifically, Addameer:

Urges the international community to pressure Israel to end its continuous policy of collective punishment against the Palestinian people and the use of prisoners as bargaining chips.

Demands that all administrative detainees be released promptly and unconditionally. Likewise, Addameer demands the right to a trial in which international standards and legal guarantees for fair trial are upheld for all political detainees.

Stresses that the use of torture and ill-treatment is prohibited under international law and constitutes a grave violation of human rights as inscribed in international standards and conventions. All cases of torture should be investigated while perpetrators should be brought to justice.

Calls upon the international community to pressure Israel to respect internationally recognized detention standards, including the right to regular family visits for all detainees without distinction, adequate and timely medical health care and the right to education. Moreover, Addameer urges the international community to act immediately in order to stop the implementation of further sanctions against detainees identified with Hamas and Islamic Jihad as such measures constitute collective punishment.

Calls for the immediate release of all child detainees held in Israeli custody. The international community should ensure that Israel abides by its commitments and obligations as included in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Demands that a special nutritional diet be provided to pregnant prisoners, nursing mothers, women suffering from treatable diseases, and most importantly children held with their mothers until the age of two. Equally, Addameer demands that female prisoners have access to specialized gender-sensitive medical including counseling.

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

Ramallah, Rafidein Square, Sebat Bldg, 1st Floor, Suite 2

Tel. + 972 (0)2 296 0446 / 297 0136

Fax + 972 (0)2 296 0447

Email: [email protected]