Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Palestine Prisoners Day – Narratives Behind Locked Doors


Sunday, 17 April 2011 11:30

 Ref: 34/2011

Each year on 17 April, Palestinian Prisoners Day is commemorated in order to support and recognize Palestinians currently in custody in Israel. Since 1979, the date marks the release of Palestinian prisoners by Israel as part of a prisoner swap in 1974. Between 1967 and 1988 more than 600,000 Palestinians were held in Israeli jails for a week or more, constituting approximately 1/5 of the total population. Moreover, from the beginning of the 2000 “Al Aqsa” Second Intifada, Israel detained another 70,000 individuals bringing the total number of Palestinians who have been detained in Israel since 1967 to 760,000. Currently, approximately 6,500 Palestinians are detained in Israel including approximately 251 children and 37 women. These prisoners are held in17 investigation and detention centers and prisons throughout Israel. Additionally, approximately 241 administrative detainees and 14 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council are held in custody by Israel.

PCHR notes with particular concern the many violations of human rights and humanitarian law that prisoners are subjected to while in Israeli detention. In particular violations of Articles 7, 9 and 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Israel is a State Party. Moreover, under Israeli military regulations which are applied in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), Palestinian children are treated as adults at the age of 16. This is in blatant contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which states that a child is anyone below 18 years old. Israel is a signatory to the CRC. As a result, Palestinian children are subjected to the same detention regime as adult prisoners.

Prisoners in Israeli custody are often subject to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, including poor detention conditions, denial of access to counsel or family visits, deprivation of health care and many other policies that violate human rights law. The UN Committee Against Torture has criticized Israel for failing to undertake credible and effective investigations by Israel into torture-related allegations. Prisoners in administrative detention face the additional burden of not knowing when, or if, they will be released; the Israeli administrative detention law allows for the arrest of persons not charged with committing a crime and their detention for renewable 6 month terms.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights’ (PCHR) notes with concern that none of the approximately 700 Gazans in Israeli jails have been allowed to receive visitors for nearly four years. Not only are these prisoners denied visits but they are also denied phone calls or mail from relatives. Only occasionally and sporadically are these prisoners allowed to communicate through letters. The blanket prohibition of family visits exacerbates the already difficult conditions of confinement and constitutes a violation of international human rights law.  

PCHR commemorates Palestinian Prisoners day with the release of nine narratives collected from family members of prisoners. These narratives highlight the unnecessary hardship on both the prisoners and their families.