Tuesday, 17 April 2012 07:00
Today, 17 April 2012, marks the Palestinian Prisoners Day, which has been devoted by the Palestinian people to support the cause of Palestinian prisoners detained in Israeli jails. Since 1979, Palestinians have commemorated this day, which marks the anniversary of the release of Palestinian prisoners in the first prisoner swap deal of 17 April 1974.
This year, the Palestinian Prisoners Day comes at a time in which the suffering of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails doubles as a result of violations of their rights. These violations have recently peaked by the forcible transfer and deportation of prisoners, the latest of which was the forcible transfer of a female prisoner, Hanaa Shalabi, to the Gaza Strip on 01 April 2012.
These violations are part of a systematic policy adopted by Israeli occupation authorities against Palestinian prisoners, subjecting them to cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions, denying them access to medical care, constituting medical negligence which has caused deaths; practicing methods of torture against them; placing some of them in solitary confinement; depriving them of family visitation; and banning them from receiving academic education, according to a decision issued by the Israeli Prison Service on 20 July 2011.
According to the figures and statistics PCHR possesses, more than 4,700 Palestinian prisoners are still held in Israeli prisons and detention facilities, mostly inside Israel, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, particularly Article 76 which stipulates that “protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein.” The majority of the Palestinian prisoners are from the West Bank, and they include 9 women and 190 children, as well as 320 prisoners who have been placed under administrative detention; the latter category includes 27 Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and former ministers.
PCHR expresses its utmost concern for the continued deprivation of family visitation of at least 475 Palestinian prisoners from the Gaza Strip, lasting more than five years now and causing deterioration to these prisoners’ psychological and health conditions in violation of international human rights law. At least 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in a number of Israeli jails are expected to start an open ended hunger strike to pressurize the Israeli Prison Service to heed to their demands, including abolishing the policy of solitary confinement; ending the application of the Shalit Law; stopping attacks against prisoners, providing prisoners with adequate health care; and allowing family visitation to Gazan prisoners. It is worth noting that at least 10 prisoners have been on hunger strike in protest against the policy of administrative detention.
On the Palestinian Prisoners Day, PCHR draws the attention to escalated violations of the rights of Palestinian prisoners and the deterioration of their conditions because of Israel’s insistence to adopt a series of measures against them, which violate human rights principles and the international humanitarian law, which Israel, as a party to the relevant treaties, must respect. PCHR also draws the attention to the international silence regarding such violations, which proves suspicions towards the international community’s disregard of international humanitarian law.
Since its establishment, PCHR has systematically and continually followed up the cases of thousands of prisoners in Israeli jails. PCHR has provided legal aid to prisoners and their families, and has documented and reported on violations of their rights. In this context:
1. PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations under the Convention;
2. PCHR calls upon international human rights organizations to follow up cases of Palestinian prisoners and request their governments to exert pressure on Israel to stop its illegal practices against Palestinian prisoners and release them;
3. PCHR calls upon the European Union to activate Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which provides that both sides must respect human rights as a precondition for economic cooperation between the EU states and Israel.
 See “PCHR Condemns Punitive Measures against Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Jails,” Press Release, Ref: 70/2011, PCHR, 21 July 2011.