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Palestinian female detainees harassed and threatened

7. February 2003

by Addameer, 6 February 2003

On Thursday 30 January 2003, after an 8-day hunger strike in protest of their conditions of detention, Palestinian female detainees `Abla Sa`adat and Iman Abu Farah were transferred to Ramleh Prison within Israel`s 1948 borders. The transfer took place after the judicial review of their administrative detention orders, and it was understood that they would be transferred to a section of Ramleh Prison specifically for female political detainees.

However, on Tuesday 4 February 2003, when Addameer`s lawyer Mahmoud Hassan attempted to visit the two women, he was not only harassed by the prison authorities, but also discovered that the women were in fact being held in a section of Ramleh Prison with Israeli female criminal prisoners.

Advocate Hassan was searched extensively whilst trying to visit the detainees, insulted during the search, and treated as a criminal, rather than a lawyer exercising a basic right to offer legal counsel. Rather than being taken to the usual section for lawyer visits with detainees, Hassan was taken to a section for family visits. After more than an hour of waiting, he tried to leave the room to ask what the delay was and discovered that he was in fact locked in the room. He shouted to get the attention of the guards, who then told him that they would find someone to unlock the door. However, he remained locked in the room for approximately three hours.

After three hours of waiting, `Abla Sa`adat was finally brought to visit with Advocate Hassan. However, during the entire visit they were separated by a wire fence, which prevented Sa`adat from signing an affidavit, and were accompanied by a prison guard throughout the interview. During the visit, Sa`adat informed her lawyer that shortly before her judicial review at Beit El Military Detention Center she was taken by a member of the Shabak (Israeli General Security Services) to an interrogation room. There he told her that if her husband, Ahmad Sa`adat, who is currently being held in Jericho Central Prison under British-US guard, was involved with any political activities from within his cell, they would kill her children. He went further to say that her arrest was just a warning to prove to her that `they` are able to do anything they want.

Following the judicial review, Sa`adat stated that she and Iman Abu Farah were transferred to Ramleh Prison. However, rather than being placed in the appropriate section with other political detainees, the two were put in a section with Israeli female criminal prisoners, where they suffered continuous harassment from the other prisoners. The harassment was encouraged by the prison administration, as they had brought in Israeli newspapers with articles concerning the arrest of the two detainees, and rewarded their harassment by allowing special privileges to the criminals each time they threatened either Sa`adat or Abu Farah. Both detainees were subject to extreme harassment and humiliation, including verbal insults, threats of beating, and death threats, to the point that neither was able to sleep in fear of their lives. After 5 days in the criminal section, both Sa`adat and Abu Farha began refusing meals on Tuesday 4 February. On the same day, and whilst their lawyer was waiting to visit with them, both detainees were removed from the criminal section and placed with other political detainees.

Following his interview with Sa`adat, Advocate Hassan requested to visit with Abu Farah, but was told by the prison administration that visiting hours were over.

`Abla Sa`adat and Iman Abu Farha have not been charged with a crime, nor have they had the opportunity to defend themselves against any charges that may be brought against them. By stating to Sa`adat that her arrest was simply a warning, the GSS officer himself reaffirmed what human rights organizations continue to condemn: the fact that administrative detention is used against Palestinian civilians as a form of collective punishment.

As administrative detainees, Israeli law provides that detainees must be held in adequate living conditions and separated from other prisoners. The harassment, humiliation and threats suffered by Sa`adat are unfortunately not unique, as the majority of Palestinian detainees experience similar treatment during their arrest and detention. The location of their detention within Israel is in contravention of international law, which prohibits the transfer of civilians from occupied land to the sovereign land of the occupying power.

There are approximately 6,000 Palestinians currently being held within Israeli prisons, 60 of which are women, and over 1000 of which are administrative detainees. Addameer once again calls on the international community to protest the use of administrative detention as a form of collective punishment, and calls on Israel to immediately release all administrative detainees, or charge them with a recognizable crime.

Source: ADDAMEER – Prisoners` Support and Human Rights Association