Addameer Prisoners and Human Rights Support Association
Palestinian Prisoners Day occurs this year in the midst of the Palestinian Intifada, with continued incarceration of Palestinian prisoners and a daily increase in their numbers.
The year 2000 began with hopes that prisoners would be released as part of the signed agreements between Palestinians and the Israeli government. With the refusal of the Israeli government to abide by these agreements, a series of strikes and other activities by prisoners culminated in an open hunger strike of all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails during May 2000. The strike was supported by widespread demonstrations, strikes and sit-ins of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and with considerable international solidarity. These activities were met by severe Israeli repression leading to several deaths and hundreds of injuries, including those of ex-prisoners. The strike ended following an agreement between prisoners and the Israeli authorities under which certain demands were supposed to be fulfilled and others to be negotiated. However this agreement was never fulfilled and a further deterioration in conditions was noted. Stricter regulations against prisoners and their families were implemented, particularly following the onset of the Intifada.
Israel`s failure to abide with signed agreements, particularly those mandating the release of all Palestinian prisoners arrested before the signing of the Oslo agreement, was not the only Israeli violation. The Israeli authorities also retreated from many of the agreements that had been reached between prisoners and the Prison Authorities, worsening the already bad situation in Israeli prisons. These agreements were intended to bring the situation of detainees one step closer to internationally-accepted norms and were achieved only after a long struggle that claimed the lives of tens of Palestinian prisoners.
According to the latest figures from Addameer Prisoners and Human Rights Support Association, the number of Palestinian and Arab prisoners currently held in Israeli prisons and detention and interrogation centers is approximately 1960 prisoners. It should be noted that the number of those held in detention and interrogation centers is constantly changing.
Through regular visits to Israeli prisons and interrogation centers, Addameer has documented the following human rights violations:
--Shabeh: Shabeh or position abuse, in which detainees are shackled to a chair for up to 20 hours continuously, is still being practiced in Israeli prisons and interrogation centers despite the Israeli High Court decision of 6 September 1999 that supposedly outlawed the use of this torture method.
-- Physical and Psychological Pressure: Detainees are subject to physical pressure, threats, and exhaustion that aim to cause a nervous breakdown and the loss of physical and psychological control of detainees. Several interrogators conduct continuous interrogation sessions that may last up to two days. Thus detainees may be prevented from sleeping for long periods. Interrogation periods are renewed continually, sometimes lasting two-months or longer in which the detainee is subjected to such pressure.
-- Isolation: The detainee is isolated from the outside world and prevented from seeing a lawyer during almost the entire interrogation period. This restriction on lawyer visits occur in 4 to 8 day periods that are renewed when the interrogators see necessary for a period that reaches 15 to 30 days long. Addameer`s lawyer followed 129 cases in interrogation centers during the year 2000, and was prevented from visiting detainees under interrogation 112 times, for periods varying between 15 to 30 days.
-- Collaborator Rooms: The Israeli General Security Services (GSS)> has increased the practice of placing Palestinian prisoners in detention rooms with collaborators. The collaborators then attempt to extract information from detainees by claiming to be active in organizations outside the prison to gain the detainees trust. Israeli interrogators have developed this method as an integral part of the interrogation process, and there is no interrogation center that does not have a section devoted to this practice. Many times this process involves threats to the detainee`s life if the detainee does not relinquish information easily and at times involves direct physical abuse.
-- Body Searches: Israeli Occupation Authorities conduct abusive and humiliating body searches - including strip searches - of Palestinian prisoners when moving them between sections of the same prison or detention center, or between different prisons. The same kind of abusive body search is conducted on families visiting detainees, despite the fact that visits are conducted from behind wired fences.
-- Family visits: Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israeli Authorities have moved Palestinian prisoners who are residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to prisons located inside Israel. This is a violation of international law and creates major difficulties for families in visiting detainees, as they are required to obtain permits to enter Israel. The process of getting these permits is a long and humiliating one, and permission is often denied. Since the end of September 2000, Israeli Occupation Authorities have cancelled all previously issued permits and stopped issuing new ones. Families were not able to visit detainees, a punishment that affected both detainees and their families. Only Palestinian residents of Jerusalem were able to visit detainees since they are not required to obtain such permits. Thus families are prevented from bringing food, clothes and other needed supplies to detainees, items that detainees require and can only get from their families during visits. Such practices add to regulations introduced on 21 June 1996 concerning family visits. According to these regulations only immediate relatives who are older than 40 years in age or younger than 16 years can visit. Another regulation was also implemented that requires family members to have a special clearance or permit. This process is extremely complicated and obtaining such permission requires a security clearance that is often denied as a means of placing further pressure on detainees and their families.
-- Punishment Practices; Transfer and Isolation: Israeli authorities practice a general policy of regularly transferring Palestinian prisoners from one prison to another as a method of preventing prisoners from coordinating actions or strikes aimed at improving their detention situation or building a prisoners movement. This practice also creates further difficulties for families who are often unaware of the transfer and must delay their visit until they obtain permission to visit the other prison. There is a policy of detaining Palestinian prisoners in prisons that are located far from places of residence thus placing further obstacles to family visits. Palestinian prisoners are regularly placed in solitary confinement, preventing them from seeing other detainees or their lawyers.
-- Phone calls: Palestinian prisoners have always been denied the right to make phone calls. Recently this has been one of the most important demands of prisoners due to the irregularity of family visits and the frequent banning of family visits outright. This is particularly important in situations of bereavement such as the death of a close family member.
-- Discrimination against Palestinian detainees from Israel: Palestinian political detainees who are Israeli citizens are discriminated against in comparison to Jewish prisoners or to criminal prisoners. They are denied the rights guaranteed to Israeli prisoners by law such as phone calls, home visits, and face-to-face family visits. Israeli authorities have refused to deal with their case as a collective one and insist on considering each case individually. Authorities have only provided these rights on the provision that political prisoners are placed with criminal prisoners.
-- Granting of Parole: According to Israeli law, a prisoner who has served two-thirds of their sentence is eligible to apply to a special legal committee to look into their release. Through the experience of following such cases, Addameer Association has noted that discrimination against Palestinian prisoners is widely practiced within the Israeli judicial system. Israeli Jewish prisoners detained for different criminal charges or for murdering Palestinian citizens get their sentences reduced and are released by a special hearing or by a parole decision from the Israeli President. On the other hand, Palestinian political prisoners do not receive such reductions either from judges or the security apparatus. They rarely receive parole and in the cases where they do this is often only a few weeks before the end of their actual sentence. Reasons given for such a practice includes the claim that the Palestinian prisoners present a state security threat or that the general political situation does not warrant such a move.
-- Health conditions: Addameer`s lawyers have noted a policy of intentional medical neglect and prolonged delay of required treatment. This practice is intended to place further pressure on prisoners and includes the following:
* Not providing specialized medical services: Israeli prisons where Palestinians are detained have small, poorly equipped clinics staffed with an inexperienced nurse and a general physician who works only on certain days during the week.
* Failure to provide required treatment: Medical personnel deal with prisoners in a biased manner and intentionally delay treatment or do not provide adequate medical care. Israeli prisons authorities often refuse to supply required specialized treatment for Palestinian prisoners through restricting the kinds of treatment provided.
* Impeding access of Arab medical personnel: Israeli authorities put forward extremely difficult and very complicated conditions that prevent Arab physicians and medical personnel from being able to provide certain medical care to Palestinian prisoners.
-- Juveniles: During the Intifada hundreds of Palestinian children under 18-years of age have been arrested and currently around 130 are still detained in Telmond prison. The children have been placed in cells with those who have been detained for criminal offenses. Addameer Association is extremely concerned with the well being of these children as a result of their detention with criminal prisoners. The children have suffered from forms of abuse including:
* Child detainees have been beaten, scalded with hot water and cut with razors.
* There have been reports of sexual abuse against children by criminal prisoners that the Israeli prison administration has not investigated. In one case a child who complained of sexual harassment was beaten and had his legs cut with razors. Israeli authorities refused to move him from the section.
* Belongings such as clothes, foods and shoes have been stolen by criminal prisoners.
* Privileges such as telephone cards, cigarettes, shoes, and canteen purchases have been revoked.
* Newspapers, magazines and athletic equipment have been barred.
* Family visits have been denied since the beginning of the Intifada. Visits were permitted on 2 October 2000, for a period of four days and then banned again. This has caused severe psychological distress in children.
Ongoing violations against Palestinians during the Intifada
Israeli Authorities have used several methods in their attempt to crush the Intifada, some of which have not been used before while others have been used on a larger and more intense scale than previously witnessed. These include:
-- The use of heavy weapons (artillery, tanks, attack helicopters, etc.): Israeli authorities have utilized disproportionate force and targeted Palestinian civilians and residential areas during the Intifada, killing and injuring scores of Palestinian civilians in their residencies or work sites and damaging whole residential blocks.
-- Targeting and intentional killing of Palestinian children and the targeting of schools.
-- The use of snipers and the use of firearms with silencers: From the very beginning of the clashes the Israeli army has provided soldiers with automatic guns and rifles that have silencers attached to them.
-- Assassinations: The Israeli military campaign to assassinate Palestinians whom they have termed `field leaders` is not a new practice. Israel has used such extra-judicial executions or assassinations in the past against political or military opponents within the occupied territories or in other countries. A well-trained assassination division has existed since the founding of Israel but this is the first time this policy has been implemented in such a wide-scale and open manner.
-- Bulldozing Agricultural Areas: During the recent period Israeli authorities have launched a campaign to destroy and bulldoze agricultural land on an unprecedented scale. Thousands of acres of Palestinian agricultural land has been bulldozed and destroyed. In Gaza complete areas had been leveled including houses of farmers.
-- Military closure: The prolonged implementation of a military closure on Palestinian villages and towns has turned these areas into cantons, isolating them not only from each other but from the rest of the world. This has caused severe damage to Palestinians in all spheres including the economy, education and health.
-- Targeting Journalists: Israeli authorities have systematically targeted journalists during the recent conflict. More than 40 journalists have sustained injuries during the Intifada either from live ammunition, plastic-coated-metal bullets or through beatings by Israeli soldiers or settlers.
-- Settlements and Settlers violence: Settlement activities have escalated since the beginning of the Intifada and a green light has been given to settlers to activate their own settlement plans and to launch attacks on Palestinians. Settler attacks on Palestinians have become more frequent and armed militias of settlers have been formed to carry out attacks on Palestinians.
-- Arrest Campaigns and House Raids: Israeli forces have escalated and widened their arrest campaign against Palestinians. Arrests are being conducted on military checkpoints and border crossings or by night raids on houses. Some common phenomena have been reported during night raids on houses, including:
-- Raids are conducted after midnight and before dawn with large numbers of army troops and special units.
-- Houses of targeted people within the same neighborhood or village are raided at the same time as the entire neighborhood is surrounded.
-- Residents of the house and neighboring houses are forced to leave their homes during the raid which may continue for hours. This includes forcing children, elderly and even the sick to leave their homes.
-- Trained dogs are sent into the houses after residents are forced out and before soldiers go in.
-- Intentional damage is caused to furniture and house property during the raid.
-- Abusive body searches of arrested persons and sometimes of their relatives are carried out. These have included forced strip-searches outside of the house.
-- In most cases arrested persons are severely beaten, kicked and punched during arrest.
The issue of Palestinian prisoners forms an integral part of the general Palestinian question and the struggle of Palestinian people to achieve their rights of freedom, independence, self-determination and return. These rights are guaranteed by international laws and conventions and by a series of United Nations Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions. Addameer Association condemns Israeli violations against Palestinian prisoners and their families as part of the continuing violations against the whole Palestinian people.
ADDAMEER - Prisoners` Support and Human Rights Association
PO Box: 17338, Jerusalem.
Ramallah, West Bank.
Tel: +972-2-2960446 Fax: +972-2-2960447