Ramallah, 25 August 2011
Addameer condemns the mistreatment of its lawyer Anan Odeh by the Israeli Prison Service on 23 August at Ashkelon prison when he was conducting legal work as part of his efforts to defend Palestinian political prisoners. Mr. Odeh was at Ashkelon that day to visit one of the prisoners, and when told to wait for the prisoner to be brought from his cell Mr. Odeh was left locked in a small overheated room without adequate ventilation. The room was approximately 3 by 1.5 meters and with a small window of no more than 30 by 30 cm, with two sections - one for the lawyer and one for the prisoner, separated by a glass divider. After 40 minutes of waiting Mr. Odeh was suffering from shortness of breath and called for some assistance through the window, and on two occasions could see police officers from the prison walking past but was ignored. Feeling panicked and concerned for his deteriorating health, Mr. Odeh banged on the door with one of the chairs in the room and after 5 minutes a female prison warden arrived but had to leave Mr. Odeh waiting even longer as she went to collect the key to open the door. During this time an Israeli police officer arrived in the section on the other side of the glass divider with the prisoner that Mr. Odeh was due to see, but at that point Mr. Odeh had fainted and collapsed in the room and had to lie there until the warden returned with the key 10 minutes later. Mr. Odeh asked for a doctor but instead a nurse was brought and an ambulance was called. The ambulance then took him to Ashkelon hospital. Mr. Odeh was given numerous tests but was only told that he had a problem with his pulse, before he was released from the hospital.
Addameer is dismayed by the poor conditions in the prisons, as they affect both the health and wellbeing of the prisoners and the ability of the lawyers to carry out their vital work to uphold the rule of law and protect the human rights of these prisoners. This is in addition to Israel’s regular denial of family and lawyer visits to Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. Addameer’s lawyers have made numerous complaints concerning these conditions but the Israeli prison authorities have consistently failed to address them. Furthermore, Israeli law states that the Israeli prison service is obliged to ensure that a visiting lawyer is able to see his/her client in prison without delay, provided the prison authorities have been notified of the visit 24 hours in advance. It also states that the prison authorities should provide an adequate space for lawyers to meet with prisoners. It is clear that these basic obligations weren’t met, since despite giving the required notice for the visit Mr. Odeh was made to wait for a prolonged period before seeing the prisoner he was due to meet, during which time his health deteriorated due to the abysmal conditions in the poorly ventilated consultation room.
Mr. Odeh remains in a poor physical state following his collapse at Ashkelon prison and has had to go to hospital to get treatment. Addameer reiterates its call to improve without delay the conditions inside the Israeli prisons, as a means to ensure that basic standards pertaining to the treatment of prisoners is upheld, and that prisoners are able to access legal counsel - a fundamental human right - without restrictions or obstacles imposed by the Israeli authorities.