Monday, April 5, 2010

Human rights group issues report on Palestinian prisoners' reality in Israeli jails

DSC_08571Vienna, April 5, 2010 (Pal Telegraph)- Friends of Humanity International issued on Saturday "Behind the Sun"-- a detailed report describing the Palestinian prisoners’ reality in Israeli jails during 2009, confirming that 2009 was exceptionally one of the worst years: Israeli prison administration practiced new methods against them, to increase both the psychological and physical pressure  on them and continue locking them up in an exceedingly difficult environment, with the aim of rendering them soulless bodies, to guarantee they cannot live afterward. The Israeli Prison Service (IPS) also sought to destroy the Palestinian prisoner’s psyche, affecting his family as well, through oppressive policies such as preventing families from visiting their jailed relatives for very long periods of time.
The human rights group said that the Palestinian prisoners are still setting rare examples throughout humanity history, in terms of patience and endurance; where under tragic circumstances, tens of thousands of the Palestinian prisoners were forced to undergo months under torture and whips of occupation executioners in the dungeons of investigation, that they have long suffered years of oppression at the hands of prison guards and Shabas. The prisoner‘s ability to withstand these conditions and survive is a great meaning in the course of defending the right to life.
The organization pointed out that the number of prisoners in Israeli occupation jails has reached 7286 male and female prisoners over the past year, of whom 36 are females, as well as 20 ministers and deputies, in addition to 250 children under the age of 18, whose detention has been accordingly prohibited by laws. Occupation authorities also arrested 319 prisoners since before the Oslo peace accords signed by the Palestinian and Israeli sides in 1993, known as long-term prisoners (old prisoners), 115 of whom have now been held for more than twenty years, including three prisoners now being held for more than thirty years: Nael Al-Barghouthi, Fakhry Al-Barghouthi and Akram Mansour.
Because Israeli occupation authorities refuse to release them in prisoner exchange deals with the Palestinians, the focus of this report is on the Palestinian prisoners, originally from Jerusalem and areas beyond the Green Line, who have continued to be marginalized by Israeli occupation authorities. Last year’s statistics showed that the number of both sexes Jerusalemite prisoners was 273. The Palestinian captive Fuad Al-Razim from Silwan neighborhood in the occupied Jerusalem is considered the dean of Jerusalemite prisoners, arrested 29 years ago. The number of Jerusalemites who died in Israeli prisons was 14, the first of whom was Qasim Abdullah Abu Aker, died in 1969 as a result of torture during interrogation in the prison "Al Maskoubiya". The last one was captive Joma’a Keyalah, who died nearly a year ago, after having spent 13 years in Al Ramlah prison hospital.
According to the organization, there are 31 Jerusalemite prisoners; some of them sets of brothers, inside Israeli jails who are still suffering bitter conditions. Among those prisoners are 3 brothers--Mousa, Khalil and Ibrahim Sarahneh who have been sentenced to life imprisonment since 2002. Regarding solitary confinement prisoners, there are two of them, both from Jerusalem: Abed Al-Naser Al-Hulaissi who has been isolated for more than 13 years, and Mo‘taz Hijazi, isolated for nine years. There is also Jerusalemite deputy-prisoner Mohammed Abu Teir, who spent more than 25 years in Israeli jails.
According to the human rights organization “Friends of Humanity”, there are four Jerusalemite females prisoners in Israeli jails: Ibtisam Issawi, resident of Jabel Al-Mukaber and sentenced to 14 years; Amna Mona, the oldest female prisoner, resident of the Old City, and is sentenced to life imprisonment; Sana‘a Shehadeh, a resident of Qalandia refugee camp, also sentenced to life imprisonment; and finally captive Nada Derbas, resident of Issawiya town and received a 4-year sentence.
Presenting the conditions of Jerusalem’s prisoners, the organization recalled the sixty-year-and-a-half-year-old Ali Hassan Abed Rabu Shallaldah, the eldest among prisoners from the occupied Jerusalem, held prisoner for 19 years and is currently serving a sentence of 25 years. He has 12 children, 8 of whom got married while he was languishing in captivity.
The organization stated that Wael Mahmoud Qassem, from Silwan town in the occupied east Jerusalem, received the longest ever sentence of a total of 35 life sentences in prison in addition to 50 years. He is married with four children. Brothers Ramadan and Fahmi Mashahreh have been sentenced to 20 life sentences. Israeli occupation forces also demolished their homes. The organization also named the two Jerusalemite prisoners Dr. Abed Al-aziz Amro and Alaa Al-Din Al-Bazian, both sentenced to life imprisonment.
For the Palestinian female prisoners, the human rights organization asserted that 36 Palestinian women are in Israeli jails toiling in harsh conditions, 27 of whom from the West Bank, 4 from Jerusalem, 4 from Palestinian areas inside the Green Line, and only one from the Gaza Strip. Also, there are five mothers along with sons in detention, with sentences ranging from 13 to 3 life sentences and thirty years. Their names are: Irena Poly Sarahneh, a mother of two daughters; Ibtisam Abdul Hafiz, with six sons; Qahera Said Al-Saadi, with four children; Iman Mohammed Gazzawi, a mother of two; and finally Latifa Mohammed Abu Thera’, who has seven children.
According to the organization, among the Palestinian prisoners, there are 250 delinquents in Israeli jails, aged less than 18 years old. These children are equally abused as their elders, and subjected to torture, unfair trials, inhuman treatment and violations of their fundamental rights.
The organization noted that Israeli occupation authorities discriminate against the prisoners from the Palestinian areas inside the Green Line. They consider them Israeli citizens; nevertheless, they do not treat them the same way they deal with Jewish prisoners, due to Israel’s prevailing racist policy. Furthermore, Israeli government refuses to include their names in any prisoner swap deals. There are 109 prisoners from both sexes in different Israeli jails; the 78-year-old Sami Younis who was arrested 27 years ago is considered the dean of all prisoners.
Considered as the most dangerous move, Israeli government formed a ministerial committee in March 2009, to intensify violations against the prisoners. It sought to study and appraise the situation of Palestinian prisoners, with the aim of choking them. Indeed, the committee has since adopted several decisions and unjust procedures, to crush them. There are more than 1000 prisoners in Israeli jails, suffering chronic diseases, and are subjected to medical negligence. There are also more than 1500 Palestinian prisoners and others from the West Bank who have been deprived of seeing their families for long times, including 775 prisoners from the Gaza Strip denied family visits since Israel imposed the siege on the Gaza Strip in 2006, under the pretext of maintaining security.
New Israeli violations were documented; such as using detainees as human shields during the recent assault on the Gaza Strip and forcibly keeping them in holes amid heavy firing. Israeli occupation forces also turned Palestinian-owned houses into military barracks while locking up the entire family in one room only.
Also, Gaza’s fishermen were a direct target for Israeli aggression. The number of Gazan fishermen who constantly were attacked by Israelis increased, as Israeli navy forces, almost every day, arrested them, confiscated their boats and tools, and humiliated and blackmailed them. Israeli occupation forces also arrested patients at Beit Hanoun crossing ‘Erez’ kept them for interrogation, and put pressure on them to collaborate with Israeli intelligence. The organization confirmed that all people arrested were subjected to torture and humiliation, and that inflicting all kinds of torture on the prisoners is an integral part of Israel’s policy against them.
In its report, “Friends of humanity” said that the prisoner is detained under administrative detention for many years without charging him, and it may extend longer than five years. Also, there are prisoners who were transferred to administrative detention after they had served long sentences. The prisoner Fathi al-Hayek, head of Zeta Jammai'n (Nablus) village, is the oldest administrative prisoner, imprisoned for more than four years. However, the organization noted that there was a significant decrease in the number of administrative detainees during the last year, where only 280 administrative detainees remained in detention.
The organization referred to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which clearly stipulates the illegality of the continuing isolation of the prisoner more than thirty days, regardless of the offense he made. However, this was not honored by occupation authorities. They held so many prisoners in long-term isolation instead. For example, prisoners Mahmoud Issa, Abdullah Barghouthi and Hassan Salameh have been isolated since 2002, Mo'taz Hijazi and Ahmed Al-Mughrabi isolated since 2004 and Jamal Abu Al-Hija isolated since 2005.
Unprecedently, Israeli occupation authorities have arrested since mid-2006 51 Palestinian MPs and ministers, and gave most of them harsh sentences. Later, many of them were released after having spent nearly four years in captivity, but the other remaining 20 are still in different prisons under very difficult conditions.
In 2009, Israeli prison authorities tried to impose the orange uniform instead of brown. Therefore, they clearly wanted to make resemblance between them and prisoners in American prisons at Guantanamo Bay. So if one saw the Palestinian prisoners in such clothes, it would come to his mind the intended similarity between the two groups. But the decision was rejected by the prisoners, despite all punishment and strangulation, and then prison administration realized that it would not be able to implement the decision. So they had to postpone it.
“Friends of Humanity” said that 15 arrests were recorded last year, most of whom were from the Gaza Strip arrested during Israel’s war on Gaza. The majority of them faced unjust decisions mostly labeling them as ‘illegal fighters’. After they had served their sentences, they, however, were not released and continued to live under miserable conditions. Undoubtedly, this is a flagrant violation of human rights and standards of just trial as well, where the Palestinian prisoner is unable to defend himself, and is detained indefinitely without a specific charge. 
By: Fuad Al Khoffash (Researcher) and Ghassan Obaid (Human Rights Activist)
Translated by: Mohammed S. El-Nadi
Photo by: Pam Bailey