Thursday, April 9, 2009

Al Mezan Condemns Israeli Campaign of Arbitrary Measures against Palestinian Detainees and Calls on International Community to Urgently Intervene

30-3-2009 Al Mezan 34/2009

Israel continues to systematically violate international law and human rights standards in its treatment of Palestinians detainees. Recently, Israel has implemented several arbitrary measures which violate the rights of detainees and breach the most basic standards for the treatment of prisoners.

In a session held on 29 March 2009, the Israeli government took a decision to step up arbitrary measures against Palestinian detainees based on the recommendations of a committee set up previously for that purpose. Committee members included the Israeli Minister of Justice and the Prison Administration. The committee sought to determine measures through which to impose collective punishment on detainees, in order to use them as a ‘bargaining chip’ in negotiations with Palestinian factions on the issue of prisoner exchange.

The following measures have subsequently been taken against Palestinian detainees:

  • Removal of electrical equipment including televisions and radios from inside the prison blocks and preventing access to the news
  • Forbidding the entry of cash into the canteen thereby preventing detainees from purchasing basic essential items not provided by the Prison Administration
  • Prohibiting particular categories of prisoners from meeting each other and halting family visits
  • Intensifying measures aimed at forcing detainees to wear orange uniforms
  • Isolating detainees that are affiliated to the Hamas movement and repeatedly transferring prisoners between detention centers
  • Preventing detainees from continuing education in breach of their right to education

This campaign of arbitrary measures comes in a context of continued Israeli violations against all Palestinian detainees. Palestinian and Arab detainees are subject to degrading treatment in breach of their most basic rights accorded by international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights standards. Palestinian detainees are subject to the following violations:

  • The use of torture and physical pressure: This treatment commences from the moment of arrest and continues during interrogation. Several torture methods are practiced against Palestinian detainees including: severe beatings; the prohibition of treatment to injured or sick detainees; sleep deprivation for long periods of time exceeding one week; forcing detainees to maintain the shabah position (body stretching with hands tied to a chair) for long periods of time; prohibiting lawyer visits; placing soiled bags over the heads of detainees; threatening to kill detainees; and holding detainees in solidarity confinement for long periods of time sometimes exceeding two months.
  • The conditions of places of detention: Palestinian detainees are held in places of detention which do not accord to international standards for the treatment of detainees. Places of detention do not provide protection from extreme weather conditions and large numbers of prisoners are held in cramped and confined spaces. The Prison Administration also deliberately dims lighting in detention facilities which damages the eyesight of prisoners over time. Essential maintenance is not carried out at these places of detention.
  • Prison diet: Detainees are provided with poor quality meals, which are sometimes spoiled, and are insufficient in quantity, which leads to malnutrition. This violates international standards on the treatment of prisoners which state that prison authorities must provide detainees with food of nutritional value adequate for health and strength.
  • Cruel and degrading treatment: The Prison Administration conducts arbitrary search campaigns during which prisoners are strip-searched. The detainees are also beaten, hit with batons, tear gassed, shot with live bullets and placed in solitary confinement for long periods of time and their belongings are confiscated.
  • Health care: Detainees are not provided with adequate medical services which are limited to the provision of very basic health care for sick detainees. These services do not meet their urgent health needs.
  • Periodic visits: Detainees from throughout the occupied Palestinian territories are regularly banned from receiving family visits, and Gaza Strip residents have been prevented from receiving family visits entirely since June 2007. In the last few years, all detainees from particular Palestinian regions have been banned from receiving any family visits for months at a time.

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns Israel's violations against Palestinian detainees. The Center condemns the arbitrary measures against them, which discriminate among them and punish them for actions allegedly taken by others. Al Mezan Center stresses the need to take effective and urgent action for the more than 11,000 Palestinian detainees held by Israel, of whom a significant number have been detained without trial.

Al Mezan calls on the international community to intervene and to offer international protection for Palestinian civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories, including those detained in Israeli prisons. Al Mezan Center emphasizes the need for the international community to pressurize Israel to respect IHL and human rights standards, especially the right of detainees to periodic prison visits, and to abide by the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners adopted in 1955 as well as other relevant international standards.